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  1. VGS Homebrew Almanac formerly known as The Currently Available Homebrew Thread: The purpose of this thread is to keep an up-to-date list of cartridge homebrew releases that are currently in production for the NES, SNES, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Sega Master System, and Genesis. This list is for those who need their homebrew right now (well, now plus shipping time and something for the tax man). For those looking for NES homebrew roms, NESworld is the place to go. For those curious what is included in each entry of the Action 53 series, NESdev has a wiki for you. Part I of this list will only include currently available physical releases (available that is, from the original producer (I can't watch every eBay auction). Hacks, repros, and re-releases will not be included (but this might be a good place to also flag pirated work so we can call out theft where it happens). This list will include games as well as chiptune carts. Variants can be included where there is a substantive difference in gameplay; limited editions, variants of the physical cart itself, or minor in-game differences will not be distinguished. Part II of this list will include defunct homebrew games that are no longer available from their original source but can be found on the secondary market. This section is intended to serve as a reference for collectors new and old who wish to enrich their collections as well as their lives with what was once brewed but alas is brewed no more (at least until Ferris re-posts his fairly exhaustive Aftermarket Price Guide here or on a dedicate site). For simplicity’s sake, links will be to a game’s individual page/thread (or as close as possible). *Please note, I am sure that there are mistakes and games that slipped my attention in what follows. Feel free to point them out or inform us all of a change in a game's status. If you are the creator of a game and you would like to have your work included at a set date/time, please feel free to send me a pm. Part I: The Currently Available Homebrew List Currently Available NES/Famicom Releases: -0-to-X NA Edition $75 CIB Link -2 in 1 Geminim/Siamond $27 C Link -8Bit Rhythm Land $45 CIB Link -8-bit XMAS 2017 $75 C Link -8-bit XMAS 2018 $46 C Link -8-bit XMAS 2019 $46 C Link -8-bit XMAS 2021 $48 C Link -Action 53, Volume 2: Double Action 53 $48 CIB Link -Action 53 Volume 3: Revenge of the Twins $50 CIB Link -Alfonzo's Arctic Adventure $40 CIB Link -Almika - The Star Rider Denetsu Gaiden $40 C Link -Almost Hero $50 CIB Link -Alter Ego €25 CIB Link -AO $35 CIB Link -Armed for Battle $52 CIB Link -Assimilate $35 C Link -Basse Def Adventures €31 CIB Link -Bat Lizard Bonanza $30 C PM johnvanderhoe -Battle Kid Dangerous Trap $20 CIB Link -Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril $36 C Link -Battle Kid 2: Mountain of Torment $49 CIB Link -Beerslinger $35 CIB Link -Billionaire Banshee $50 CIB Link -Bishoujo Mahjong Juku Part 1 ¥12,800 CIB (FC) Link -Black Box Challenge $40 C Link -Brandon You're Going to Hell $60 CIB Link -Candelabra: Estoscerro $60 CIB Link -Carpet Shark $50 CIB Link -Chumlee's Adventure: The Quest for Pinky $67.50 CIB Link -Chunkout 2 $25 C Link -City Trouble $35 CIB Link -Creepy Brawlers $50 CIB Link -Doodle World $55 CIB Link -Draiocht $40 CIB Link -Dushlan $40 CIB Link -Eskimo Bob $30 C Link -Expedition $75 CIB + Cards Link -Eyra-The Crow Maiden $50 CIB Link -Family Picross $40 CIB Link -Fire and Rescue $50 CIB Link -Flea! £50 CIB Link -Galactic Ascension $45 CIB Link -Get'em Gary! $40 CIB Link -Ghoul Grind: Night of the Necromancer $46 CIB Link -Gold Guardian Gun Girl (NES) $60 CIB Link -Gotta Protectors: Amazon’s Running Diet $40 C Link -Haradius Zero (FC) ¥10,000 CIB Link -Haratyler (FC) ¥6,000 CIB Link -Haunted: Halloween '85 $60 CIB Link (NES) & $45 C Link (FC) -Haunted: Halloween '86 $60 CIB Link (NES) & $45 C Link (FC) -HBWC 2012 $45 C Link -The Incident: Remastered $60 CIB Link -Jet Paco €25 CIB Link -Jim Power $55 CIB Link -Justice Duel $45 CIB Link -Kirakira Star Night DX (FC) $53 CIB Link -KUBO 3 $30 C PM dale_coop -L’Abbaye des Morts (FC) €45 CIB Link -L’Abbaye des Morts (NES) €45 CIB Link -Little Medusa $60 CIB Link -Lizard (NES) $60 CIB Link; $55 CIB Link; & €45 CIB Link; (FC) €45 CIB Link -Log Jammers $50 CIB Link -Lucky Penguin $50 CIB Link -Machine Cave $40 CIB Link -Meet Me in the Parking Lot $60 CIB Link -Meteor Swarm $35 C Link -Micro Mages €45 CIB Link; (FC) €45 CIB Link -Mojonian Tales $48 CIB Link -More Glider $35 C Link -Multidude $40 CIB Link -Mystic Origins $50 CIB Link -Mystic Pillars $36 C Link -Nebs 'n Debs $48 CIB Link; (FC) €45 CIB Link -Neo Heiankyo Alien (FC) $45 CIB Link -NES Virus Cleaner $35 CIB Link -Nighttime Bastards $47 CIB Link -Ninja I & II $49 CIB Link -Oof McBrewster $45 CIB Link -Orebody: Binder's Tale $60 CIB Link -Pegs $30 C Link -Pico Pico (Basse Def Adventures) (FC) ¥3,124 CIB Link -Piss the Fish (FC) $60 CIB PM fcgamer -Plummet Challenge Game $30 CIB Link -Porun-chan no Onigiri Daisuki ¥7,963 CIB Link -Power Coloring $35 C Link -Project Blue $60 CIB Link & 50 €CIB Link -Quadralords $35 C Link -Quest Forge - By Order of Kings $40 Link -Rainbow Brite: Journey to the Rainbow Land €39,90 CIB Link -Rollie $60 CIB Link -Sgt. Helmet Training Day €50 CIB Link -Sir Abadol €30 CIB Link -Snakky $20 CIB Link -Solaris $35 C Link -Space Raft $60 CIB Link (keep an eye out for the coming rom for Space Raft Arcade, which Jordan is bringing to MGC!) -Spirit Impel $70 CIB Link -Study Hall $33 C Link -Super NeSnake 2 $34 C Link -Super Painter $40 CIB Link -Super Uwol €25 CIB Link -Swords and Runes RE $45 CIB Link -Swords and Runes III LE $250 CIB Link -Swords and Runes III NA $75 CIB Link -Troll Burner $20 C Link -Trophy $60 CIB Link -Turtle Paint $52 CIB Link -Twelve Seconds $35 C Link -Twin Dragons €45 CIB Link; (FC) €45 CIB Link -UXO RE $35 CIB PM Neodolphino -Wampus C PM johnvanderhoe & Link -Wart Worm Wingding C PM johnvanderhoe & Link -Yeah Yeah Beebiss II $30 C Link Currently Available NES/Famicom Music Carts: -8Bit Music Power Final $33 CIB Link -A Hole New World Soundtrack (chiptune) $45 CIB Link (NES) & €40 CIB Link (FC) -bitpuritans: 2A03 Puritans RE $50 C Link -Creeping it Real $40 CIB Link -Electric Dragon: Another World $45 CIB (FC) Link -Famicompo Pico 2014 $50 C Link -Famimimidi $200 C Link -Mega Ran: RNDM $50 CIB Link -Sergio Elisondo: A Winner Is You $35 C Link -Zi: Quiet $35 C Link -Zi: Silicon Statue $35 C Link -Zi: Thornbury $35 C Link -Zi: [Welcome to] Eville $35 C Link Currently Available SNES/Super Famicom Releases: -Fork Parker's Crunch Out $50 CIB Link -The Last Super $30 C Link -Little Medusa $60 CIB Link -Nekotako $72 CIB Link -Old Towers $50 CIB Link -Quiz Impact Habit's Great Adventure (SFC) ¥10,780 CIB Link -Super Sudoku $40 C Link -Sydney Hunter & the Caverns of Death $40 CIB Link -Yo Yo Shuriken $50 CIB Link Currently Available SNES/Super Famicom Music Carts: -The Cult of Remute €36 C Link Currently Available Gameboy/Gameboy Color Releases: -Adulting $22.08 C Link -Airaki $15 C Link -Alien Invasion $28.75 CIB Link -All Humans Must Die! $50.72 CIB Link -Another Dracula's Castle ¥4,730 CIB Link -Ark $21.39 C Link -Asteroids Chasers €45 CIB Link -Bingo Machine ¥3,480 C Link -Black Castle $20.33 C Link -Bonesy $15.27 C Link -Borruga $21 C Link -BULB! $38 CIB Link -Burger Kitchen ¥8,800 CIB Link -Color Lines DX $18.40 C Link -Cubic Style GB Flash Cartridge with Illustration ¥1,000 C Link -Dangan $25 C Link -Death Planet $18.40 C Link -Die and Retry $15 C Link -Dimeo's Jukebox $69.69 CAD CIB Link -Dino's Offline Adventure $15 C Link -DMG Deals Damage €40 CIB Link -Dracula’s Castle ¥4,400 CIB Link -Dragonborne £40 CIB Link -Escape 2042 $30 CIB Link -Flashin' CIB Link -Flooder $46.79 CIB Link -Fullswing ¥3,300 C Link -Fydo's Magic Tiles $50 CIB Link -G-Zero $56 CIB Link -GB Dot Illustration (Quiz Impact Illustration Collection) (GB Color) ¥4,500 C Link -GB Dot Illustration (Technos Japan Kon) ¥4,200 C Link -GB Dot Illustration (Tomoe Yamane-Game Impact Collaboration) ¥4,000 C Link -GB Wordyl $54.70 CIB Link -Genesis $50 CIB Link -Ghostly Labyrinth $25 CIB Link -Gun Ship $26 C Link -Guns & Riders $15 C Link -Infinitron $20 CIB Link -Into the Blue $25 C Link -Konbu-cahn Gaiden ¥6,050 CIB Link -Leo Legend €25 C Link -The Little Tales of Alexandria $29 C Link -Lost Terminal €36,90 CIB Link -Lunar Journey €25 C Link -Magipanels $45 CIB Link -Micro Doctor €25 C Link -Mona and the Witch's Hat Deluxe $25 C Link -Museum on a Cart €69 CB Link -Oni $56.32 CB Link -Penalty Kick 91 $21.39 C Link -Petris $18.40 C Link -Quartet $18.40 C Link -Quest Arrest $35 CIB Link -Quiz Impact Habit’s Great Adventure ¥5,550 CIB Link -Repair-chan's Repair Daisakusen ¥ 6,380 CIB Link -Retroid $20 CIB Link -The Retrospekt.com.au Retro Gaming Museum The Game AVCon 2019 $15.27 C Link -Rusty & Ruby - Save the Crows £40 CIB Link -Saeko-sensei’s Sex Appeal Blackjack ¥5,280 CIB Link -Scary Maze Game $18.74 C Link -The Shapeshifter €49 CIB Link -Sheep it Up! €40 CIB Link -Submarine 9 €25 C Link -Tobu Tobu Girl Deluxe €49 CIB Link -Tower of Hanoi $18.40 C Link -Where is my body? €34 CIB Link -Wing Warriors €25 CIB Link Currently Available Gameboy Music Carts: -ASM 2016 Christmas Card $25 C Link -Heebie-GBs 2014 $40 C Link -Heebie-GBs 2019 $40 C Link -NES Rocky Theme ¥5,500 CB Link -Remute: Living Electronics €30 C Link Currently Available GBA Releases: -HomeBrew GamePack $40 C (?) Link -Miko Para ¥5,800 CIB Link -Motocross Challenge $40 C (?) Link -Powder $35 CIB Link -XE GamePack $50 C (?) Link Currently Available GBA Releases: -Gizzmoix: People in the Sun (GBA Repress) €40 CIB Link -Slow Magic: Δ $40 C (?) Link Currently Available Sega Master System Releases: -Baru Baru €45 CIB Link -Flight of Pigarus €50 CIB Link -Heroes Against Demons €45 CIB Link -Prisonnier 2 €45 CIB Link -Voyage-A Sorceress' Vacation €45 CIB Link Currently Available Genesis/Mega Drive Releases: -16Bit Rhythm Land $60 CIB Link -Alien Cat 2 $50 CIB Link -Arkagis Revolution $50 CIB Link (Mega Cat) & €45 CIB Link (Broke Studio) -Balaio de Jogos (4-in-1) 99.90 R$ CB Link -Cannon Fire Chaos $50 CIB Link -Coffee Crisis $50 CIB Link -The Curse of Illmoore Bay $60 CIB Link -Debtor $60 CIB Link -Demons of Asteborg €69 CIB Link -Devwill Too $50 CIB Link -Escape 2042 $40 CIB Link -Fight for Vengeance $60 CIB Link -Foxy Land $60 CIB Link -Gluf $50 CIB Link -Handy Harvy $35 CIB Link -Kromasphere YAGAC MD $35 CIB Link -L'Abbaye des Morts $45 CIB Link -Little Medusa $55 CIB Link -Mega Casanova $29 CIB Link -Mega Marble World $35 CIB Link -Mega Marble World 2 $38 CIB Link -Mega Quadro Pong $44.75 CIB Link -MegaXmas ’89 $30 C Link -Metal Blast 2277 $32 CIB Link -Misplaced $50 CIB Link -Old Towers $50 CIB Link -Papi Commando: Second Blood €45 CIB Link -Racer $29 CIB Link -Romeow & Julicat $50 CIB Link -Smiley & Smiley $29 CIB Link -Space Flies Attack $38 CIB Link -Super Heavy Duty $35 CIB Link -Tanzer $50 CIB Link -Tanglewood $50 CIB Link -Xeno Crisis £55 CIB Link -Xump 2 €24.37 CIB Link & Link -Yazzie $50 CIB Link Currently Available Genesis/Mega Drive Music Carts: -genMDM $80 C Link -Mikeyeldey: the album C$18 CIB Link -Remute: Technoptimistic €33 Link -YM2017 $65 CIB Link -YM2020 $75 CIB Link Currently Available Game Gear Releases: -Saeko-sensei’s Sex Appeal Blackjack ¥7,800 CIB Link Currently Available TurboGrafx 16 Releases (HuCARD only): -Atlantean $68 CIB Link Part II: Defunct Homebrew or Sorry But Your Homebrew is in Another Castle No Longer Available NES/Famicom Releases: -1007 Bolts/Hammers/Gifts -8bit Music Power (NES & Famicom) -8bit Music Power Final (NES & Famicom) -8-bit XMAS 2008 -8-bit XMAS 2009 -8-bit XMAS 2010 -8-bit XMAS 2011 -8-bit XMAS 2012 -8-bit XMAS 2013 -8-bit XMAS 2014 -8-bit XMAS 2015 -8-bit XMAS 2016 -8-bit XMAS 2020 -Action 53, Volume 1: Function 16 Volume One "Streemerz Bundle" -Anguna: Scourge of the Goblin King -Astro Ninja Man (FC) -Basic Championship Wrestling -Beat ‘Em -Beyond the Pins (The Assembly Line Game Jam 2021) -Blade Buster -Blow ‘Em Out -Bomb Sweeper -Bovinium Quest -Box Boy -Brilliant Pebbles -Bust A Nut: Flight of the Harbinger -Candelabra: Estoscerro -Commie Killer -Commie Killer featuring Jeffrey Wittenhagen -Console Killer -Convention Quest -Cornball Cocksuckers -CORGS Simulator -Cowlitz Gamers Adventure -Cowlitz Gamers Second Adventure -Cross-Strait Independence -CTWC 2018: The Archives -D+Pad Hero -D+Pad Hero 2 -Dead Tomb -Deth Complex -Dragon Boat (FC) -Dragon Feet -Dragon Leap -E.T. -Enigmacore -Exit Loop -F-Θ -Final Fantasy VII -Flappy Bird -Frankengraphics Concept Cart -Freecell LE -From Below -Galf -Garage Cart -Gemventure -Germ Squashers -Glider -Gold Guardian Gun Girl (FC) -The Grind -Gruniożerca 2 -Gruniożerca 3 -HACK*MATCH -Halloween Scare Cart 2015 -Halloween Scare Cart 2016 -Halloween Scare Cart 2017 -Halloween Scare Cart 2018 -Hamburgers En Route to Switzerland -Hangman -Haradius Zero (NES) -Hungry Ghost Night (Gasse version) (FC) -Hungry Ghost Night (Wang version) (FC) -Ilevan (FC) -The Incident -Jay & Silent Bob: Mall Brawl -Juhannusolumppialaiset 2017 -Juhannussauna 2016 -Kevin Power in Concert Carnage -Kevin Power in Too Many Games -KHAN Games 4-in-1 Retro Gamepak -Kira Kira Star Night DX (NES & Famicom) -K.Y.F.F. -LAN Master -Larry and the Long Look for a Luscious Lover -Larry and the Long Look for a Luscious Lover: Engagement Edition -Lawn Mower -Legends of Owlia -Mad Wizard -The Magnilo Case -Midwest Gaming Classic 2011 -Miles Con 2016 -Mr. Splash -NA Halloween 2009 -NAGE Hunt -Neotoxin -NEScape -Ninja Slapper -Nomolos: Storming the Catsle -NyanCat -Ooze Redux -Peace Love Trippy Club (FC) -Perfect Pair -Perkele -Ploid -Poronkusema -Random Insult Generator -RC 2 Rally (FC) Link -Rekt -Retro Homebrew Championships 2015 -RetroVision -Rick Roll'd -Rise of Amondus -Rock, Paper, Scissors -RSM Cart 2011 -RSM Cart 2012 -Scramble -Shera & The 40 Thieves -Sitten Kitten -Slappin' Bitches -Sly Dog Studios 3-in-1 2P Pak -Sneak ‘n Peek -Space Foxes -Spook-o'-tron -Star Keeper -Star Versus -Sudoku 2007 -Super Bat Puncher Demo (NES) -Super Russian Roulette -T*Gun -Tailgate Party -Tapeworm Disco Party -Tic Tac XO -Tortoises -Tower Defense 1990 -The Tower of Turmoil -Turtle Rescue: Unhatched DX -Turtle Rescue: Unwrapped -Uchūsen -Ultimate Frogger Champion -Utakata Synopsis (FC) -Vector Run -Vegetablets Go (NES & FC) -VGBS Gaming Podcast Season 1 -Zooming Secretary No Longer Available NES/Famicom Music Carts: -_node: d3ad_form4t -8Bit Music Power -Alex Mauer: Color Caves -Alex Mauer: Vegavox -Alex Mauer: Vegavox II -Alwa's Awakening Soundtrack -Anamanaguchi: Dawn Metropolis -Anamanaguchi: Endless Fantasy -Anamanaguchi: Power Supply -animal style: Teletime -BEATBOX -Chip Maestro (for making music!) -Holly Jolly NES Mix -Goofy Foot: Power Chiptunes -Journey -King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: Polygondwanaland -King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: Polygondwanaland 2nd Release -Kreese: PAL Project -Midlines -MOON8 -Moonfall: A Legend of Zelda Compilation -NESK-1 -NTRQ -Puzzle Boys: Duck Tails -RTC: Years Behind -Super Synth Drums Cart -Zao: Reformat/Reboot -Zi: Four No Longer Available SNES/Super Famicom Releases: -16-bit XMAS 2011 -16-bit XMAS 2012 -Frog Feast -Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman Zero No Longer Available Game Boy Releases: -Chunkout -Deadeus -Dragon Mountain Double Feature -Flashin' -IndestructoTank! -Rope & Bombs -Super Connard -Super Jetpack DX -The Warp Coin Catastrophe -Windows 93 Adventure No Longer Available Game Boy Music Carts: -King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: Flying Microtonal Banana (Gizzmoix) -King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: I’m In Your Mind Fuzz (Gizzmoix) -King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: Polygondwanaland (Gizzmoix) -The Mist Toggles: Boneless -Nonfinite: Plus/Minus -Tronimal: Hello_World! No Longer Available GBA Releases: -Anguna: Warriors of Virtue No Longer Available GBA Music Carts: -Be Careful: Anemoia Garden -Be Careful: Dissipated Skies -Be Careful: Liminal Cove -Doctor Popular: Destroy All Presets -Don Aaron: FREEDOM? -Gizzmoix: ALEX GBA (Sapphire, Ruby, Emerald editions) -Gizzmoix: People in the Sun - Power Plant GBA -H A R U S P E X: Tome of the Forbidden Land -Lazuli_yellow: The Hidden Temple of Wuhu Island -Lazuli_yellow: Videopolis -Lin Lin and the Symphony of Tears: Release I -MAGICK FLAVOUR STATION: N64 Love Songs -mingkurray: Hidden EP -mingkurray: holographic -Monster Teeth: Slippery Slope -NMBUS: Ciel Rouge -NMBUS x Be Careful: Linear EP -NYOKA SHOJE: World -OasisLtd.: Mixtape #1 -Startide Realms: ASVMR -TUPPERWAVE: To you baby, with love -Whitewoods: Spaceship Earth No Longer Available Sega Master System Releases: -Sydney Hunter & The Sacred Tribe No Longer Available Genesis/Mega Drive Releases: -16Bit Rhythm Land -1985 World Cup -30 Years of Nintendon't -ASCII Wars -Barbarian -Beach Volley -Bomb on Basic City -Code Eliminator -Diamond Thieves -Double Symbol -FX Unit Yuki -Game Panic II -Germ Squashers -Griel’s Quest -Hangman SG -Humiliation Nation -Invasion -IK+ Deluxe -Ivanhoe -Megagames Almanac -Mega Cheril Perils -Miniplanets -Papi Commando -Pier Solar and the Great Architects -Return to Genesis -Sacred Line -Star J -Suprakillminds -T*Gun II -Uwol Quest for Money -War in the Machine -Zooming Secretary No Longer Available Genesis/Mega Drive Music Carts: -Eternalist: A Telefuture Compilation -Freezedream: Today -Hyperdub: Konsolation (bundled with Analogue Mega Sg) -Tanglewood Soundtrack -TH4 D34D: Future 2612 No Longer Available Game Gear Releases: -Hamburgers En Route to Switzerland
  2. Hey everyone, I've launched my blog series A Homebrew Draws Near! It covers new homebrew games coming into existence, discussing their development, gameplay, and most importantly share fun stories from the development team! In addition to its place in the blog section of VGS, this thread will share links to each entry as it’s made and provide announcements for newer posts. I hope you enjoy it! Episode 1: Project Blue Episode 2: KUBO 3 Episode 3: Anguna Zero Episode 4: Trophy Episode 5: Rollie Episode 6: Jay & Silent Bob: Mall Brawl Episode 7: Quest Arrest Episode 8: The Assembly Line Episode 9: 8-Bit Xmas 2020 Episode 10: Space Raft Episode 11: From Below Episode 12: Yeah Yeah Beebiss II Episode 13: What Remains Episode 14: Doodle World Episode 15: The Curse of Illmoore Bay Episode 16: Eyra-The Crow Maiden Episode 17: Roniu's Tale Episode 18: Chumlee's Adventure: The Quest for Pinky Episode 19: Montezuma's Revenge Episode 20: Demons of Asteborg Episode 21: Dungeons & DoomKnights Episode 22: Fire and Rescue Special Episode: The State of Homebrew 2022 Episode 23: Rarity: Retro Video Game Collecting in the Modern Era Episode 24: Super Tilt Bro. Episode 25: Homebrew Magazines Episode 26: Alwa's Awakening Episode 27: Dangerous Demolition
  3. A Homebrew Draws Near! A blog series by @Scrobins Episode 27: Dangerous Demolition Introduction: If nebulae are the cradles for new stars, game jams and other compos often serve as the cradles for promising new homebrew. Though it is uncommon for jam games to continue into full-fledged productions, it is rarer still to see any new games receive the physical treatment. Nonetheless these challenges and competitions bring out the best in retro console love, demonstrating the creativity of devs, and highlighting the depth of even the most obscure console’s homebrew library. Therefore, it is all the more important to recognize when a game jam (or in this case, two!) gives rise to a physical release for a vastly underrated system. For this entry, I’m covering Dangerous Demolition, a hybrid top down shooter & block breaker developed by Dr. Ludos for the Sega Master System. As of the time of this writing, a digital release of the game is in the works, and a CIB physical edition is available from Coté Gamers here. Development Team: @Dr. Ludos: programming @Jaden (Jaden Houghton): music CIB with the sweet hang tab action Game Evolution: For the full story behind Dangerous Demolition’s development, you might enjoy reading the Dangerous Demolition Making Of booklet, also available for purchase from Coté Gamers. But to highlight some of its important moments, this game’s story begins in 2018, when Dr. Ludos developed the first iteration of the game as his entry into the 2018 Ludum Dare game jam, which challenges participants to create something from scratch in 48 hours. The jam’s theme that year was to combine two incompatible genres. Deciding to meld shoot ‘em up and Breakout’s style, Dr. Ludos created Shootanoid, in which your character shoots lasers to charge up balls in order to break bricks. Screenshot of Shootanoid from Ludum Dare 41 Two years later, Dr. Ludos adapted his game for the 2020 Coding Competition hosted by SMS Power!, which emphasizes 8-bit Sega consoles. Dr. Ludos ported Shootanoid from its original TIC-80 software to the Game Gear, taking six months to transform the game into what he now called Dangerous Demolition. Though the game placed second to last, it was notably the only Game Gear entry in the compo that year. As such Dr. Ludos was undaunted, hoping to bring something to the underserved Game Gear homebrew community. Dr. Ludos continued working on the game, carrying it over to the Sega Master System, and teaming up with Raphaël and Coté Gamers to bring Dangerous Demolition to physical release in mid-2022. Screenshot from Dangerous Demolition (Game Gear) from SMS Power! Coding Competition Gameplay: Dangerous Demolition describes itself as a mix of top down shooter and Breakout-style brick breaking. You play as D.D., the fearless protagonist tasked with shooting at balls in order to charge them up and use them to break bricks across 30 levels. Gameplay is very detail-oriented, so be mindful of the environment. Each level provides balls you will use to break walls, however you cannot touch the balls directly. Instead, using either button to shoot and the D-pad to navigate, you use your laser to charge up the balls, turning them from gray to red. Strategy and precision are important as your goal is to break a certain type of brick: orange bricks are your typical targets, and gray keyhole bricks have to be hit with your laser before you can access what’s behind them. Meanwhile you have to work around the unbreakable blue bricks and completely avoid the insta-death skull bricks. Now I know why demolition is so dangerous! Screenshot from Dangerous Demolition for the Sega Master System Review: Dangerous Demolition takes a number of familiar elements and reinvents the genre to provide something refreshingly addictive. You might go into this game thinking you know enough from playing Breakout, but if you rely too much on your assumptions, it’s you who’s about to get broken. Gameplay seems easy enough as you shoot & avoid balls in a relatively large space, especially considering how adorably tiny your sprite is. However the screen suddenly feels much smaller when you have to contend with multiple balls at once. Avoiding all these double entendres is the real minefield While it would be easy to charge the balls and stand back (since once charged and turned red, the balls stay that way), the fun of a stopwatch tracking your time, allowing you to set speed records means you want to continuously enter the fray to redirect balls again and again. I wonder what gameplay would feel like if there was a mode in which balls reverted back to gray after a certain period of time, forcing you to essentially pay closer to attention to each ball to ensure it’s working for your benefit. With infinite continues and a save system, the game encourages you to go bold. The funny explosion that results from you getting hot by a ball might also be another reason to go for broke. Dangerous Demolition had the potential to be a tedious clone of a genre done to death by devs trying to demonstrate their burgeoning skills, but fortunately Dr. Ludos shows off why he’s the good doctor, giving new life to an old classic. As I said earlier, the sprites are 8-bit tiny and cute, but not so small you can’t see or distinguish blocks. Your character has a jaunty step as he walks; I wish I could be so consistently perky at work. Meanwhile Jaden’s musical accompaniment brings a bubbly yet tense ambiance to gameplay that I think of as a happy focus: you’re intent on getting the job done and no force on earth will pull you from your task, but also maybe you whistle merrily while you work. Interviews: For a behind the scenes look into the game’s development and the stories that led to its creation, I interviewed the two members of the development team about their backgrounds and inspiration… Dr. Ludos @Dr. Ludos -Before we dive into Dangerous Demolition, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrewer? What is the origin story of Dr. Ludos and Ludoscience? Is that your actual name or does it have relevance to your work or background? As many readers of this blog and forum, I grew up playing video games. I have a lot of nostalgia and passion for games in general, and more specifically retro video games. So my first inspiration to become a homebrewer was to fulfil a childhood dream: creating a game for the consoles of my childhood :). I actually achieved this dream with my first projects (Sheep It Up! for Game Boy and Yo-Yo Shuriken for SNES). But the fun thing with homebrew is that while fulfilling a childhood dream I learned a lot about how retro gaming machines work under the hood. This is a very captivating topic in itself, and it somehow boosted my interest in making homebrew games. I love to discover how “new” machines work, and I try to use their limitation to make some fun games. Screenshot from Yo Yo Shuriken for the SNES Making games for machines released before the mid 2000’s is a very different experience from making games for modern consoles or computers. Today, you’ll use a lot of engines and tools that provides a lot of (necessary) abstraction from the machine. But with gaming machines from the 70-80-90’s you don’t have an operating system or some fancy abstraction layer: you often work “on the metal” and program the hardware directly. And that is a very fun experience :)! So yes, I think my motivation is a mix of nostalgia for consoles of the past and a thirst of a new knowledge for how these machines work, and the fun you can have programming them. Regarding the Dr. Ludos “pen name”, it’s simply a nod to “Ludoscience.” Ludoscience is an associative R&D laboratory gathering a few researchers from various Universities interested in the scientific study of games in general. We have worked together since 2006, and we made a lot of work dedicated to Serious Games (using games for education, etc.) for example. Although this is not my professional job, I have been an amateur game designer & developer since my youth. Under various pen names, I always loved to create some small games in my spare time, for the PC, for the Web, and since 2017 for retro gaming machines. I’ve also always been very interested about the history of video games, so being able to make games for old machines is pure joy for me! -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? I think I first discovered the idea of “homebrew” (as “making new games for old consoles”) back in 2008, with a series of articles published in a Retro Gaming magazine I was subscribed to: Pix’N Love. Those articles delivered news about all those new cool games for our old machines, and were written by RayXambeR. In my country, RayXambeR is a legendary figure and longtime supporter of the homebrew scene. Nowadays, he is working for Coté Gamers, and manages their “homebrew games” publishing division, while still writing news about the latest homebrew games. So I’m very grateful to RayXambeR for his articles, and I’m very honored to work with him on a few of my current homebrew projects. Regarding homebrew creators themselves, I’m a huge fan of Sebastian Mihai (http://sebastianmihai.com/). Over the course of several years, he created homebrew for almost all retro gaming machines, often using “modern SDK” to do so. I really love all the projects he did, and how he shared all of them open source on his website. He was, and still is, a big inspiration to me. Being able to create games for so many different systems is outstanding. Although I’m far from reaching his technical excellence, I also share most of my projects as open source and I try to write “post-mortem articles” on my projects. I think it’s important to help other people to create games for their childhood machines. I feel that it’s a very important part of the homebrew communities: people there are all driven by a passion for these awesome machines, and they are always very helpful for those who want to start making their own games. And for the homebrewers I’m currently watching, there are too many to name them all: half of my Twitter feed features other game developers sharing their progress on their current project for old consoles or computers! -You’ve released a number of homebrew games, how would you describe your aesthetic? I’m not sure if we can say that I have an “aesthetic” per se, but I always try my best to design games that are fun to play while being original or unique. For example, the Dangerous Demolition project actually started in 2018 as an experimental web game project that I created for the Ludum Dare 41 game jam. I participated in the “compo” category, where people had to come up with a new original game from scratch in 48 hours under the theme “Combine 2 Incompatible Genres.” So I decided to try to mix “Breakout/Arkanoid” gameplay with a top-down shooter. The result, titled “Shootanoid”, can be played from here: https://drludos.itch.io/shootanoid About 2 years later, I decided to revisit this game concept for homebrew, and created a (very limited) prototype of Dangerous Demolition for the Game Gear, that entered the SMS Power Competition 2020. I then spent about 2 years to improve the game (remaking basically everything from scratch), while porting it to the Master System too. I try my best to make it suitable for a physical release. Although there are some exceptions, many of my projects follow a similar pattern: trying to come up with an original and fun game for a game jam or development competition, with limited time. Then, if the project shows some potential, I’ll spend as much time as needed to improve it and make a “full game” worthy of a physical release. So I don’t know if it’s an aesthetic per se, but an approach or methodology to creating homebrew that I use very often. -Have you noticed any changes in your style or game development preferences over the years? Yes, the more I create homebrew games, the more ideas for other games I have - but sadly I lack time to work on all of them! Honestly, many ideas wouldn’t lead to good games in the end I guess, but still it’s somewhat frustrating to not be able to pursue all the game concept I have in mind. Regarding style, even if I work on different machines, many of them have some similarities (e.g. all the tile-based display games consoles such as the Colecovision, SG-1000, NES, Master System, SNES, Genesis, Game Boy, Game Gear, Neo-Geo, etc.). So my technical knowledge tends to grow over time. It enables me to attempt to more “ambitious” projects - or at least to be able to program game concepts that I wasn’t skilled enough to make a few years ago. I’m a hobbyist at core, so I don’t have a plan or a set trajectory defined. I often decide to try a project for a new machine because I’ve been inspired by another fellow homebrew project or write-up. Honestly, I don’t think I have some kind of real “changes” to share with you for this question, as I’ve been working like that since several years now :). -Another fascinating aspect of your work is that you develop games across multiple consoles, including the Gameboy, SNES, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, and Atari 2600. What has led you to transcend consoles when many other brewers prefer to stick to one console? Thanks for the kind words! As I said, my main inspiration for this is Sebastian Mihai. When I discovered that a single developer could make games for tens of different retro machines, it was very cool and inspiring. I have a lot of respect and admiration for homebrewers who focus on a single machine, and I usually lean a lot on the documentation and open-source projects they have released to get started on each “new” machine I work on. But personally I have too much fun learning new thing to focus on a single machine, and I prefer to try my hand at all the machines that I have some nostalgia for :). Screenshot from GB Corp., a Gameboy game recently funded on Kickstarter I think part of the “secret” to being able to work across different machines is to rely on modern tools to make games, such as cross-compilers for high level languages like C or Basic (e.g. CC65 for the 6502 machines like the NES, the Apple II and the Atari 8-bit computers, or SDCC for the Z80 machines like the Colecovision, the Master System, the Game Gear and the Game Boy, etc.). That way you can leverage the programming skills from one machine to another, even if they use different CPU architectures. It also allows you to focus more on the game design part, as most of the modern libraries do a lot of the low level work for you, like managing VRAM, driving audio hardware, etc. For example, GBDK-2020 is a godsend to make Game Boy games (and GB Studio, the wonderful “code-less” tool to make GB Games, is actually an extra layer on top of GBDK). SGDK is magical when it comes to program SEGA Genesis Games, and PVSNESlib does the same for the SNES. Last but not least, DevkitSMS (with PSGlib audio driver) makes the creation of games for the Master System and Game Gear much easier. That’s what I used to make Dangerous Demolition. Thanks to its author Sverx (https://github.com/sverx/devkitSMS) for creating such a wonderful tool! -Do you have a favorite console you prefer to program for? What are the unique joys and challenges of programming for each? That’s a tough question. Honestly, I enjoy programming for all the consoles I’ve tried so far. If I were to rank them in the difficulty I had to create games for them using current modern tools, the list would be [easiest to hardest]: Game Boy, Mega Drive, Game Boy Advance, Atari Lynx, NES, Game Gear, Master System, Neo-Geo, Atari 2600, SNES and Atari Jaguar. Some machines are more difficult to use than others, but this is part of the fun! But if I have to pick only one, I’ll go with the Game Boy. First of all, it is a powerful machine, but simple enough for a solo developer to make really great games, sometimes rivalling commercial productions of the 90’s. The console has a very iconic aesthetic with its 4 colors graphics and unique audio chip. The hardware is also very well designed IMHO, and is a pleasure to program for. Last but not least, this is arguably the console that has the best selection of modern tools to make games for it: - If you don’t know how to program, you can use GB Studio and make very great games without writing a single line of code: https://www.gbstudio.dev/ - If you want to program the game in a high-level language, you can use C with the wonderful GBDK-2020 SDK: https://github.com/gbdk-2020/gbdk-2020 - And if you want full control over the machine, there are also modern assemblers like the awesome RGBDS that will allow you to fully master the console: https://github.com/gbdev/rgbds - There are quantities of solutions to test your game on real hardware (GB Everdrive, BennVenn flashcarts, loads of different “EEPROM” based solutions, etc.) and on your development computer (BGB is my favorite emulator thanks to a very high accuracy and powerful debugging tools, but loads of great GB emulators exists for almost all platforms). - Besides the tools, the community also has produced a large quantity of documentation to help you make game on the machine, like the reference “Pan Docs”: https://gbdev.io/pandocs/ - And speaking of community, there are a lot of homebrewers working on the Game Boy right now, and you chat with them using a wide variety of tools (Discord, Forum, IRC... or Twitter!): https://gbdev.io/chat -What tools do you use to code? It depends on the projects, but I usually use a SDK or library allowing me to program in a high-level language (mainly C, but I love other languages too!). They usually come with some tools to convert graphics and audio assets too. For Dangerous Demolition, I used DevkitSMS. It relies on C and provides you with everything you need to make SG-1000, Master System and Game Gear games. Regarding code typing, I’m a huge fan and user of Scite since about 2006. It’s very lightweigtht, yet it provides me with everything I need to program. For testing, I obviously use flashcarts to test my games on real hardware (Everdrive). But I also use emulators a lot, especially in the “gameplay fine tuning” stage of development (level design, difficulty curve balancing, etc.). It allows me to try new ideas very quickly, and when they seem to work, I put the ROM on a Flashcart to test it more extensively on my console. -Your games have been published by several major distributors, including Catskull Electronics, Yatsuna Games, and most recently Côté Gamers. What qualities do you look for when choosing someone to publish your games? Well, the first quality I’m seeking for each project is that they are able to produce a physical release for a game I made! I’m an amateur / hobbyist, so I tend to work with likeminded publishers, who are not afraid to take risky or niche projects. For example, when Coté Gamers agreed to work on Dangerous Demolition with me for the Game Gear and the Master System, there were very few homebrew for these systems. Parts to manufacture carts were not widely available, meaning the few available releases sometimes had to “recycle” part from commercial games of the 90’s. We are all game collectors at heart, so we prefer to avoid destroying existing games to produce our own. So the first thing Coté Gamers had to do was to hire a technical wizard to design a Master System PCB (and later a Game Gear one too!), so we could build the game without destroying or recycling commercial games from the 90’s. Then they had to source new cartridge shells, new boxes, and print all the manuals and covers. They did all that knowing that the Master System is a very niche system. Thus, it would take them more time and effort to produce a physical release for my game, and resulting sales would be very limited compared to other platforms like the NES for example. But they were and still are very excited about the project because they are huge fans of the Master System. They prefer to invest in making new games for the machines they love than focusing on earning money. That’s very rare, and I admire them for that. Only in the homebrew or hobbyist communities you can find people willing to produce / release projects putting passion over money. -How did you connect with Jaden to use his music for the game? How did you connect with Côté Gamers to handle publishing? I love to listen to chiptune music, especially music composed to run on retro consoles or computer hardware. So I tend to browse Battle of the Bits from time to time, and enjoy discovering new (chip)tunes. That’s were I found Jaden’s track titled “On the Run” that you can hear during gameplay. I managed to get in touch with him and I asked permission to use his music in my project. He happily agreed, and even offered me another SMS track he composed, titled “I Dunno”, that I used for the title screen. I really love both music tracks, and I’m grateful that Jaden let me use them for Dangerous Demolition - thanks again Jaden! Regarding Coté Gamers, I was already in touch with them as they made a physical release of my three SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive games on cartridge: 30 Years of Nintendon’t (main game), alongside Break an Egg and MeteoRain (bonus games). We worked well together, and I knew they were hardcore SMS fans. So when I started a Game Gear project, I contacted them. Indeed, Dangerous Demolition prototype was originally developed for Game Gear - this console is basically a portable Master System. We discussed and they agreed to publish the Game Gear version. But they were also very interested in a Master System version, so I worked hard on making a full game for both consoles! -What went into the decision that Dangerous Demolition would be a Sega Master System game instead of a different platform? As I said, I started by developing a Game Gear version of the game, out of my personal love for the console. For whatever reason, the Game Gear doesn’t seem very popular among retro gamers, but it’s a very good handheld with loads of interesting games (my personal favorite being “Popils”). Having already completed games for the Game Boy, the SNES and the Atari 2600, I wanted to try my hand at another console I loved, and it was Game Gear’s turn! ;). Screenshot from Popils for Game Gear The Game Gear is basically a portable Master System: the main differences are the smaller screen area, 160x144px instead of 256x192px, and a larger color palette. As I love the Master System too, I figured this would be a nice project to port the game to the Master System too. So I developed both versions of the game in parallel. The core gameplay code is identical between the two, but I redesigned all the levels to use the larger screen area in the Master System. The block layouts were modified. I also had to rebalance difficulty on all the levels, for example by setting different numbers of maximum balls on screen for each level. That way, you can enjoy the game on the Sega 8-bit machine on the go or at home depending on the consoles you have in your collection! -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing Dangerous Demolition? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? Although the Master System and the Game Gear don’t have the same level of popularity as the NES and the Game Boy, they are actually not that different from Nintendo’s machines from a game developer perspective. If you have made a game for the Game Boy, you’ll have no issue making a game for the Game Gear. And once you have a Game Gear version, it’s very easy to adapt it to the Master System. Despite being less popular, the Game Gear and the Master System have very good development kits and other tools to make homebrew. They don’t have “code-less” solution like NESMaker and GB Studio (yet!), but they have high level language programming kits on par with what you can find for Nintendo’s consoles. DevkitSMS is arguably as powerful as GBDK and NESLib when it comes to developing a game in C for the Master System and Game Gear! You also have excellent and accurate emulators (Emulicious, MEKA, Kega Fusion, etc.), and very good Flashcarts to test you game on real hardware (Krikkz’s Everdrive GG and Master Everdrive). Compared to NES and Game Boy, the SEGA 8-bit machine has a few particularities that I discovered while making the game: - For one, unlike the NES and the Game Boy, the Master System and Game Gear sprites can display up to 15 colors at once! (15 color + 1 transparent to be exact). This is a huge game changer compared to the NES and GB limit of 3 color per sprite (+1 transparent color). Same goes for the background. That’s why Master System and Game Gear titles are usually very colorful. - The console can rotate background tiles, but not sprites tiles (the opposite of NES and GB). If you want to make a game with a hero character who can walk to the left and to the right, you’ll have to draw the “walking left” and “walking right’ animations separately. On Nintendo’s machines, you only draw it once and the console can flip the sprites horizontally or vertically if needed. - The audio chip offer three channels: 3 square wave channels (to play sound effects) and 1 noise channels (to make explosion sounds). But a very strange limitation is that you can increase the quality of the noise channels (allowing it to play more noise frequencies) if you sacrifice one of the square waves channels. Musicians usually do that to be able to use the noise channels as a “drum” instrument. So it means you only have 2 sound channels for sound effects in games, and these channels are shared with the other music notes! This was much more constraining that I expected at first. - One last funny thing to know (for homebrew makers) is that while the Game Gear display is only 160x144px , behind the scenes it actually process images at a 256x192 px resolution like the Master System. Basically the Game Gear is creating and displaying “full screen” images like a Master System, but the Game Gear hardware is altered to display only a small part of the “full screen” images from its video memory. So basically, to display a game on the handheld console, you are drawing stuff in the center area of an actual home console display resolution. It took me some time to get used to, especially if you are making a game for the two machines in parallel. For example, if you set a sprite at the 8,8 position it won’t show on the Game Gear, as it’s “offscreen” for the handheld. But the same coordinate are “onscreen” for a Master System and you’ll see it on the home console. But once you are familiar with this quirk, you realize that the Game Gear is actually better suited to scrolling background as it uses quite a large “offscreen” area compared to the Master System! -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon? Any dream projects? I have a few projects nearing completion that should all be released in 2022: - First of all, the Game Gear version of Dangerous Demolition! The game development is completed (with extensive beta testing on real hardware) since quite some time, and we’re working with Coté Gamers to make the physical release. But everything is more complex than the Master System version sadly, so it’s taking us more time than excepted. https://cotegamers.com/shop/en/accueil/124-dangerous-demolition.html - I’m also working on an improved physical version of my Game Boy game “GB Corp”, that will be published by Yastuna Games. GB Corp. is a game that rewards you for owning more than one Game Boy model in your collection. A core mechanic of the game is to plug the cartridge on a different console each time you play (for example first a GBC, then a DMG, a GB Pocket, a Super GB, a GBA and they a Super GB2...). The final version of the game will also support 2 players with a link cable so you can have two of your consoles running in parallel :)! https://yastuna-games.com/en/14-nintendo-game-boy - I have completed the development of Yo-Yo Shuriken for Neo-Geo. The game will be available for MVS, AES, and Neo-Geo CD. It was a childhood dream of mine to make an actual arcade game, and seeing the game running on a Neo Geo MVS arcade cabinet is a very unique feeling! The game is an enhanced version of a game that I first created for the SNES. It’ll be released physically for the Neo Geo CD by Coté Gamers (we are working on the designing the manual, cover and CD jewel box right now). I’d also love to have the game available physically on MVS and AES, but this is going to be very difficult as the cartridges are very expensive to manufacture (around 150-200€ per cartridge from the quote I had so far, and that’s without any printed material). But if some people like the game and are interested, we’ll see what we can do :). https://cotegamers.com/ Regarding dream projects, I have lots of them, but they are way beyond my skills and available time sadly. They would be more “indie” projects for a full time team of 3-4 professionals, and not “hobbyist” projects for a solo developer working in his spare time. For example, I would love to make a beat’em up game, or an action-rpg like the 2D Zelda games. But maybe one day, who know what the future holds... -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? I’m really looking forward the 2022 entries for the NESdev competitions. People always come with very impressive and fun games each year, and it’s always a moment I enjoy as a gamer (https://itch.io/jam/nesdev-2022). Same goes for the annual SMS Power competition that bring us cool news games for the Master System and sometimes for the Game Gear and the SG-1000 too (https://www.smspower.org/Competitions/Index). For more specific projects, I’m very hyped by the Atari Jaguar games from Phoboz, especially his realtime 3D shooter (“Unnamed 3d Game: https://atariage.com/forums/topic/333087-new-3d-homebrew-game/) and Hammer of the Gods, a very promising beat’em up: https://atariage.com/forums/topic/333594-announcing-hammer-of-the-gods/) Oh and can I mention OpenLara too? This project is literally jawdropping - seeing the first Tomb Raider game running so great on the GBA is my latest “wow” moment. I’m also very hyped for the 3DO, 32X and Jaguar currently in the works! https://github.com/XProger/OpenLara -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? Thanks a lot of interview me on your blog, and for your continued support and coverage of the homebrew scene! If you want to play all my released games, there are available here: https://drludos.itch.io/ And if you want to get early and private access to beta and prototypes, you can support my work on my Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/drludos Jaden @Jaden -Before we dive into Dangerous Demolition, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to be a musician? What led you to compose music for homebrew games? What is your origin story? Well, I'm 19 years old. I was born in the US. I've loved video games all my life, which is what inspired me to get into game development. I've been making stuff on the internet since 2012, which is when I first made my YouTube channel. However at that time, I was a little kid with no talent. And I also had no interest in music. So, it wasn't until much later, like around my middle school years, that I got into making art and chiptune. I was listening to a lot of C64 music at the time, and I wanted to make music that sounded as technically impressive as some of those tracks I loved. That's when I really first got into making music. I started off with FamiTracker, and I still use it today to compose my music. Really, I just wanted to help people with their games by providing music for them. And I was also really excited to hear my stuff in an actual game project. So, I did some game jam stuff and some music on Battle of the Bits, a chiptune competition website. And then eventually, a dev noticed my work and put it in a homebrew game. It was cool because that was the first time my music was used for a game on an older piece of hardware. And cartridges were being made of it. It was an achievement for me because it felt like a bigger kind of production, even if the game is very simple. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? I don't follow any chiptune artists right now. If I'm listening to chiptune, I'm going to listen to some classic stuff. Rob Hubbard, Ben Daglish, Jeroen Tel, the Follin Brothers, and many more were huge inspirations for me. I also like a lot of NES soundtracks. All the Mega Man and Castlevania games have classic music. These days, I'm not listening to chiptune much anymore. I usually listen to classic and progressive rock, with Pink Floyd and Yes being two of my favorite groups. However, they don't really do much anymore. So, I'm still listening to old music, even if it's not chiptune. Rob Hubbard, my new spirit animal of style -Do you feel that your music has any qualities that are quintessentially you? How would you describe your aesthetic? I feel like a lot of my music has a very simple style. It sounds like it would be in a cheap computer game. However, I also feel that it's deceptively simple. Some of my other chiptune work features a lot of different effects and changing time signatures and chords. This particular track is very simple and doesn't represent my work at all. However, some of my other work has that kind of style. They sound like they could fit in an action game, but they're more complex underneath the surface. World War Chips is a good example of this, which is a track I made on Battle of the Bits. It goes through many different movements as the track progresses. I guess that just shows how much my style has developed over that time. And it's still changing even today! -What is your composition process? Is the creative process different when developing something for something in particular like Battle of the Bits compared to when you compose for yourself for fun? My creative process isn't different for any specific situation, but it does change on a per song basis. Sometimes, I'll have a particular riff in my head that I build off. There may be a certain story or theme that I want my music to represent. It all depends on the track being worked on and how I'm feeling about it. -What tools do you use to compose, generally as well as for games? I use FamiTracker for almost all of my music. However, I did use DefleMask for Dangerous Demolition, since that tracker supports the Master System sound hardware. It's a bit of a mess to be honest, and I'm glad I stopped using it. For mixing my music, I actually use Sony Vegas a lot of the time. I could use Audacity, but it's a bit clunky to me. The layout of Vegas just works better for me, and it has a lot of potential for audio production. I've been satisfied with what it's given me, and I'm going to keep using it. -Tell me about the development of the track “On the Run”. You mentioned to me that it was something you originally composed several years ago for Battle of the Bits, for the Winter Chip XII competition. Any interesting stories on its evolution? Tell us more about your experiences in the Battle of the Bits. On the Run was one of the first songs I made for Battle of the Bits. It was during a time when I didn't know anything about how to compose music. So, I just rushed out a bunch of songs in as many different formats as I could. And naturally, all of these songs sucked. I can't remember a single thing about On the Run's development in particular. I just felt like I had to make a Master System song. I really just wanted to win the competition and I didn't make music for the fun of it. Eventually, I stopped using Battle of the Bits because I wasn't winning anything. However, I think my music has gotten a lot better since then. Maybe it's because now I actually have *gasp* PASSION for what I'm doing. Album art from Battle of the Bits’ Winter Chip XII -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in creating the music? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? The main challenge with creating the music was learning how to use the Master System sound hardware. I had never used it before, and the resulting song from the day I spent learning the sound chip is about as good as you would expect. One important lesson I learned is that music takes time. You're going to compose a Monty on the Run or Cybernoid II with your first chiptune song. Just keep practicing and really learn the hardware inside and out. Don't rush things and expect them to be amazing. You just have to be patient and accept the fact that you will fail. All those failures and mistakes will make your actually good music all the more impressive and worthwhile. -How did you first connect with Dr. Ludos, and what are your thoughts on your track’s use in Dangerous Demolition? Have you had a chance to see the game and hear your music accompanying it? Dr. Ludos contacted me first about using the song in their game. I didn't ask for it to be used. Dr. Ludos just really liked the song and asked if it could be used, and I said sure. There's not much more to it than that. I have tested the game a bit and I like how it's integrated, with it gaining more of its sound channels as the game progresses. I think the concept of the game is solid and I like how my music was worked into it. -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, Master System or otherwise? Nothing else is planned for the Master System. That's a system I have no interest in, to be honest. I'm much more interested in Atari 7800 homebrew right now. I was working on a port of Dig Dug 2 for the 7800, but I haven't made much progress on it. Maybe I'll get back to that soon. -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? There's a lot of great Atari 7800 homebrews that I'm looking forward to playing. There's a really cool port of Qix being worked on, and some amazing ports of Pengo and Popeye have been finished that are awaiting a physical release. -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? No problem, dude! I'm glad that I could share some of my experiences with all of you. All I have left to say is that if any readers want to see how my music has evolved, check out the album I released earlier this year. It's called Where to Go, and I think that album is currently my peak musically. Just look for Jaden Houghton as the artist. It won't come up if you look up DaJoshy. So yeah, if you got $10 to spare, I highly recommend giving it a listen. Thank you for your interview, and I hope that this will inspire readers to make music of their own. Album art from Jaden’s Where to Go Conclusion: Thanks for tuning in to this latest episode of the series that explores the new and exciting goings on in the homebrew community. What are your thoughts on Dangerous Demolition and its developers? What homebrews are you eagerly looking forward to? Perhaps you’ll see it here soon when…A Homebrew Draws Near! Command?
  4. 2022 Sale Thread -E-mail jasonrippard@yahoo.com for questions -Buyer pays shipping (unless otherwise stated) -Ships to North America Only -Prices made based on condition -Parting out items considered but not guaranteed. -PM for questions/details/bundling -All NES games have dust covers. If it has a box, it has a box protector. -Virginia has joined a list of other states raising the limit to $600 per year til a 1099 tax form is sent. Sorry for the inconvenience. Alternative payment forms are fine if this is an issue. -OVER 150 TRANSACTIONS ON NintendoAge (BUY WITH CONFIDENCE) NES 720° $15 10 Yard Fight $5 3D World Runner $15 8 Eyes $15 Adventure Island (CI) $25 Air Fortress (CI) $15 Alpha Mission $10 Bandai Golf (CIB) $22 Battle Chess $10 Blades of Steel $12 Blaster Master (CI) $20 Breakthru $10 Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout (CB faded) $18 Bump n’ Jump $8 Caesars Palace (Box only) $10 Casino Kid $10 Championship Bowling (CI) $8 Cobra Command $12 Cobra Triangle $8 Codename: Viper $15 Crystal Mines (blue) (CB) $70 Dance Aerobics $8 Dash Galaxy (faded box) (CB) $25 Demon Sword $10 Destination Earthstar $8 Faxanadu (CI) $20 Festers Quest (CI) $15 Gauntlet $10 Gauntlet II $10 Ghosts n’ Goblins $20 Golf $8 Goonies II (CI) $25 Gotcha! (CI) $10 Gyromite (w/ famicom convertor) (CI) $30 Hogans Alley $10 Hoops (CI) $10 Hunt For Red October $8 Hydlide $8 Ikari Warriors $12 Indiana Jones Temple of Doom $15 Infiltrator $8 Jeopardy (CB) $12 Jeopardy 25th Anniversary $6 Johan Elway’s Quarterback (CI) $8 Karate Champ (CI) $10 Kings Knight (CI) $15 Kings of the Beach $8 Load Runner $10 Mad Max $12 Millipede $10 Milons Secret Castle (CI) $15 Muppet Adventure (cart stains) $10 NES Open Golf $7 Orb 3-D (CI) $15 Othello $5 Pin Bot (CI) $8 Pinball (CI) $8 RBI Baseball $10 Robowarrior $10 Rush n’ Attack $10 Side Pocket $8 Silent Service (CI) $8 Soccer $7 Solar Jetman $10 Solstice $10 Star Voyager $8 Stealth ATF $8 Super Talking Jeopardy (Box Only) $12 Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt/World Class Track Meet (CB custom box) $30 Super Pitfall (CI) $15 Super Spkie V’ball $8 Super Spike V’ball/World Cup Soccer (CB custom box) $30 Super Team Games $8 Tecmo Bowl $10 Tecmo World Wrestling (CI) $15 Terminator 2 $9 Tetris 2 (CI) $15 Tiger-Heli (CI) $10 Top Gun Second Mission (CI) $10 Top Player Tennis $12 Total Recall (CI) $15 Track & Field $6 Vegas Dream (CIB) $20 Wheel of Fortune (CI) $8 Wheel of Fortune Family Edition $6 Winter Games $8 World Class Track Meet (CB custom box) $25 Wrath of the Black Manta $12 Manuals -Bards Tale -Caveman Games -Commando -Dino Riki -Iron Tank -Mach Rider -Paperboy -Tag Team -Volleyball
  5. Hi all, I just launched a podcast focused on homebrew games. We're using a "game club" format where two friends and I pick one game to play for each episode, then get together after a month to talk about it. The first episode is more of an introductory discussion among the three of us about our histories with games and what we each bring to the table. I would like to think we represent three somewhat different perspectives, with each of us shaped by our professional experiences around the game, tech, and film/video industries. You can listen to a short (45 second) promo clip on our main podcast feed here. Our angle is sort of "smart commentary by way of stupid humor," which... should be obvious from the trailer. We have fairly active discussions going on Discord about each game we cover. For links to our Discord server (and other social media), check out our Linktree at http://homebrewgameclub.com. Direct links to each episode are below, and I'll be adding new episodes to the VGS Blog section as they post. Feel free to use this thread for general comments. We are just getting off the ground and are always looking for ways to improve, so constructive suggestions or other feedback are greatly appreciated! Episode 0: Introductions (Start here if you want to know more about who we are.) Episode 1: Lizard HBGC Extra: The [Retracted] List of NES Homebrew Games Episode 2: Deadeus HBGC Extra: Retro-Inspired Indie Games Episode 3: Witch n' Wiz HBGC Interview: Matt Hughson Episode 4: NEScape! Midwest Gaming Classic 2022 Recap Episode 5: Space Raft HBGC Extra: Diamond Thieves Episode 6: Xeno Crisis HGGC Extra: Ruby & Rusty Save the Crows Episode 7: Alfonzo's Arctic Adventure HBGC Interview: Jordan "Raftronaut" Davis Episode 8: Dungeons & DoomKnights We're Doing a Giveaway! (Two, Actually) Episode 9: Traumatarium and Phobos Dere .gb
  6. VGS Homebrew on the Horizon: Whereas the purpose of the VGS Homebrew Almanac is to keep an up-to-date list of cartridge homebrew releases that are currently available or whose production runs have ended, this list will provide an up-to-date list of cartridge homebrew releases within sight to one degree or another. Part I of this list will include live pre-orders, either through the developer’s website or a crowdfunding page such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Part II of this list will only include homebrew games that previously had pre-orders open, but which are now closed (e.g. a crowdfunding campaign has ended and no further pre-orders are being taken). This section will serve as a sort of limbo for games that will be available soon and will therefore soon be moved to the Homebrew Almanac. Completed roms for games where the developer is planning or considering a physical cart run will also be found here. Part III of this list will be devoted to homebrew projects that developers have announced are in the works, but which are not yet available for pre-order, though demos may have been released to whet our appetites. The line between which projects have been abandoned and which retain a glimmer of hope is a fuzzy one, so developers please pm me if you wish to be added/removed. Part IV is dedicated to the memory of homebrew projects which, as far as I can tell, have been abandoned. This may be because the developer has gone dormant on this project or in general, or a developer had a page for this game that has since vanished. May they one day be resurrected. Links will be to a game’s individual page, development blog, VGS thread, Twitter account, or some combination thereof to provide the community with the best possible access to news. But if developers would like me to link elsewhere, please tell me. *The usual disclaimer, I am sure that there are mistakes and games that slipped my attention in what follows. Feel free to point them out or inform us all of a change in a game's status. If you are the creator of a game and you would like to have your work included at a set date/time, please feel free to send me a pm. Part I: Homebrew Available for Pre-Order NES/Famicom Available for Pre-Order: -The Adventures of Panzer 2 CAD$75 CIB Link -Alwa's Awakening $60 CIB Link -Amazon's Training Road $60 CIB Link -Black Jewel Reborn €60 CIB Link -Blazing Rangers €55 CIB Link -Choumiryou-Party (FC) ¥9000 CIB Link -Dungeons & Doomknights $48 CIB Link -Force Bot $60 CIB Link -Full Quiet $60 CIB Link -Garbage Pail Kids: Mad Mike and the Quest for Stale Gum $80 CIB Link -GemaBoy Zero X €60 CIB Link -GunTneR $35 CIB Link -KUBO 1 & 2 CIB Link -Mawthorne $55 CIB Link -Montezuma's Revenge $50 CIB Link -MOON8 re-release (chiptune) €40 C Link -Orange Island £100 CIB Link -Reknum: Fantasy of Dreams C Link -Roniu's Tale $60 CIB Link -Skeler Boy €50 CIB Link -Soko Banana $60 CIB Link -Super Bat Puncher Demo (FC) €45 CIB Link -Temple Dilemma $60 CIB Link -Witch N' Wiz $60 CIB Link -You Are Error (music/video) $49 CIB Link -Zdey the Game €50 CIB Link SNES Available for Pre-Order: -Black Jewel Reborn €60 CIB Link -Chip's Challenge $50 CIB Link -Eyra - The Crow Maiden $50 CIB Link Gameboy/Gameboy Color Available for Pre-Order: -BIG2SMALL $40 CIB Link -Black Jewel Reborn €60 CIB Link -Bub-O Escape $45 CIB Link -Busty Bunny: The Bounty Babe Link -D*Fuzed $50 CIB Link -Digital Monster C$30 C Link -Digital Retro Park (chiptune) €40 CIB Link -Doc Cosmos £40 CIB Link -The First Project £30 CB Link -Flying Arrows €69 CIB Link -Gameboy Camera Gallery 2022 $40 C Link -GB Corp. €49 CIB Link -GB Productivity Suite CA$30 CIB Link -Gelatinous: Humanity Lost $50 CIB Link -Glory Hunters MX$1,400 CIB Link -How did I get here? £50 CIB Link -Infinity CA$90 CIB Link -In the Dark £40 CIB Link -Jill's Day Comiket 99 (demo) ¥3,500 C Link -Kendan and the Gem of Erú AUS$90 CIB Link -The Machine $60 CIB Link -Phobos Dere.GB $45 CIB Link -Pineapple Kid £40 CIB Link -Pine Creek $60 CIB Link -Planet Hop £50 CIB Link -POWA! €50 CIB Link -Rox OS $55 CIB Link -The Shapeshifter 2 €49 CIB Link -Skeler Boy €50 CIB Link -Space Ex: The Human Race to Mars $60 CIB Link -Tales of Monsterland £40 CIB Link -Teenage Gizzard Gameboy Game King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard €35 CIB Link -The Year After $90 CIB Link Gameboy Advance Available for Pre-Order: Alien: Escape Link -Avalar (music/video) $35 CB Link -Bowls for Breakfast (music/video) $35 CB Link -Bytes of Sound (music/video) $35 CB Link -Desire (music/video) $35 CB Link -Gelatinous 2 Link -Goodboy Galaxy Link -Paco 2 Link -Unity (music) €35 CB Link Sega Master System Available for Pre-Order: Genesis/Mega Drive Available for Pre-Order: -Affinity Sorrow $68 CIB Link -Alice Sisters €45 CIB Link -Astebros €60 CIB Link -Attack of the PETSCII Robots $45 CIB Link -Black Jewel $60 CIB Link -Black Jewel Reborn €60 CIB Link -Bone Marrow $60 CIB Link -Bone Marrow Rebirth $60 CIB Link -Chip's Challenge $50 CIB Link -The Cursed Knight €45 CIB Link -Eyra - The Crow Maiden $50 CIB Link -Insane Pain €38 CIB Link -Irena Genesis Metal Fury €45 CIB Link -Life on Mars €55 CIB Link -Metal Dragon €55 CIB Link -Mikeyeldey95 (chiptune by Mikeyeldey) $20CAD CIB Link -Paddles of Nuclear Gunnery $40 CIB Link -Paprium $169 CIB Link -Reknum: Fantasy of Dreams €60 CIB Link Sega Game Gear Available for Pre-Order: -Heroes Against Demons €59 CIB Link Turbografx-16 Available for Pre-Order: -Electronic Lifestyle (chiptune by Remute) €35 C Link Part II: Pre-Orders Closed or Completed But Not Yet Released on Cart NES/Famicom Pre-Order Closed or Will be Available Soon: -Action 53, Volume 4: Actually 54 Link -The Arm Wrestling Classic Link -Assault!! On Planet Beelzebub -Bowels of the Beast -Copper Jacket Link -Gamer Quest (fka Nintendo Quest) Link -GemaBoy Zero X Link -MGC Arcade Pack Link -Mystic Searches Link -Nix: The Paradox Relic Link -Nova the Squirrel Link -Saturn Smash Link -Slow Mole Link -What Remains Link SNES Pre-Order Closed or Will be Available Soon: -Super MIDI Pak Link Game Boy Pre-Order Closed or Will be Available Soon: -Martin Gauer Link -Neko Can Dream Link -Night of the Living Dead Link Game Boy Advance Pre-Order Closed or Will be Available Soon: Sega Master System Pre-Order Closed or Will be Available Soon: Genesis/Mega Drive Pre-Order Closed or Will be Available Soon: -Jessie Jaeger in Cleopatra's Curse Link -Phantom Gear $50 CIB Link Part III: Homebrew In-Development NES/Famicom In-Development: -Adventures in Cavyverse Link -Afterworld Deluxe Link -Alien Isolation Link -Attack of the Retro Raiders (fka Walter and Billy's CONQuest) Link -Bad Hare Day Link -Cityzen Link -Cobol's Laboratory Link -Courier -Data Link -Depths Link & Link -Deth Complex 2 Link -Diversion Link -The Excitables Link -Fie (chiptune by Zi) Link -Fighting HRD (FC) Link -Former Dawn Link -Gulpy Link -Gypsum and the Travelers Link -Halcyon Link & Link -HaraForce (FC) Link -Hyperdrive Soul Link -The Inversion Project Link -Jester Link -Janus Link -Knuckle Knight Link -The Last Tower Link -Level Zero (chiptune by Zi) Link -Light from Within Link -Malasombra Link -The Meating Link -Moon Fest (FC) -Piopow (FC) Link -"Project Borscht" (a Frankengraphics tale) Link -"Project Sword" (a Tolbert tale) Link -Retro Artists of the Future, Vol 1. (chiptune compilation) -Retro Space Championship Link -Rising Tide Link -Rumblefest '89 Link -Sam’s Journey Link -Saru★Kani Panic Link -Saturday Man Link -Save the Leopard Cats! (FC) -The Shapeshifter 1 & 2 Link -Skatemasta – Tcheco Link -Snakey Link -Sun Wukong vs Robot Link -Space Soviets Link -Sunset World Link -Super Tilt Bro. Link -Swords & Runes 2 -Touhou Rououmu (FC) Link -The Trial of Kharzoid Link -Turtle Party Link -Turtle Rescue: Storm Watch Link -Unicorn -UNO -Vice: Magic City Mayhem Link -The White Room Link -Wiz Scape Link -Wordle Link -(untitled Chinese New Year game) (ITG-Soft) (FC) -(untitled chiptune album by Electric Dragon) (FC) Link -(untitled RPG) (in association with Amaweks) Link -(untitled shmup by nia) Link SNES In-Development: -Biz-Billes Link -Bloody 'n' Mary Link -Danmaku Link -Justice Beaver – The Great Timber Tantrum Link -Nova the Squirrel 2 Link -Super Paw-n Gameboy/Gameboy Color In-Development: -4000AD (chiptune by PROTODOME) Link -Coria and the Sunken City Link -Dracula - Dark Reign Link -Fall from Space Link -Fields of Eutomia Link -Green Cube Link -Gun Ship Link -Inspector Waffles Early Days Link -Kitori Link -Kudzu Link -Pet the Dog Link -Postal Pete Link -Princess Gardening Link -The Shapeshifter 3 Link -The Third Shift Link -(untitled Tronimal chiptune) Link Game Boy Advance In-Development: -Unity (chiptune by Remute) Link Sega Master System In-Development: Genesis/Mega Drive In-Development: -The Alexandra Project Link & Link -Apeel’s Court Link & Link -Arapuca Link -Aratu Brothers + Shaolin Carcará Link -ASAP PLZ Link -Asteborg: Castaway Link -Bio Evil Link -Bite the Bullet: First Course Link -The Cursed Legacy Link -The Destroyer Link -Dreams Link -Ellenica: Dusk of the Gods Link -Gears of Rage Link -HorgiHugh Link -Journey to Oblivion Link -Lethal Wedding Link -Mega Box Reloaded -Mega Darkula Link -Perlin & Pinpin Link -Shrine Maiden Shizuka Link -Space Madness Link -Thunder Paw Link -Verge World: Icarus Rising Link -ZPF Link Part IV: Homebrew Purgatorio NES/Famicom In-Development: -Almost Hero 2 Link -Balls and Booty Link -The Banketh Link -Bleu Bleu Link -Cotton & Candy Link -Deal or No Deal -Dimension Shift Link & Link -Epicade -Family Vacation -Gatsby -The Gift of Discernment (aka Isometric Horror Game) Link & Link -High Noon Knockout -In Cod We Trust -Isolation Link -Isshokuta Link -Knil Link -NOFX Cover Cart Link -Project P Link -Rival Swarms -Space Beats -The Sword of Ianna Link -The Tenth Knight Link -Transamnia Link -The Wizard: Story Unknown Link -You Only Live Thrice -(untitled game by iamerror) Link -(untitled game by Punch) Link SNES In-Development: -Dorven Digger Link Game Boy In-Development: -Frog Knight Link -Last Crown Warriors Link Game Boy Advance In-Development: Sega Master System In-Development: -DARC Link -Dead Gunner Link -Lain vs. the Castle of Evil Link -Lost Raider Link Genesis/Mega Drive In-Development: -A(...)M(...)96 $169 CIB Link -Chant Link -The Chaos Citadel Link -Crypt of Dracula Link -Field of Nightmares -Kung Fu UFO Link -Magot Link -The Shifting Catacombs Link -The Viking and the Ninja Link & Link -Wanted Link -We Got Dungeons Link Part V: Malebolge
  7. A Homebrew Draws Near! A blog series by @Scrobins Special Episode: The State of Homebrew 2022 The evolution of homebrew has collected an enthusiastic mix of developers and gamers, all of whom draw on the love of something meaningful from their pasts to dream of what might be possible in the years to come. Though we may bring to bear the skills we have cultivated as adults, in this realm it is done to feed our inner child. Homebrew has come a long way across several decades, with the past few years witnessing an exponential increase in the number & scale of games made, the technology that supports them, and the size & reach of the community that enjoys them. There have been growing pains, a perhaps inevitable rise of difficult questions and personalities. What is homebrew? Is it a monolith, or a loose assembly that falls across a broad and malleable definition? Who represents homebrew? What lessons have been learned, and what cautionary tales should be remembered? There is no definitive answer to any of these questions; there probably shouldn’t be. Instead they present an opportunity for us to lift our heads and consider where we are at this moment in time. To look back, to look forward. To ask where we are, and where we want to be. To measure how much has changed since the last moment marked and assess the state of things. But by any measure, one thing on which we might agree: the state of homebrew is strong! Homebrew’s origins, both in terminology and community, trace back to 1975 when Gordon French and Fred Moore founded the Homebrew Computer Club, initially meeting in French’s garage in Menlo Park. Attracting such future luminaries as Jerry Lawson, John Draper, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak, the club would trade parts, circuits, and knowledge in DIY personal computer construction over its 11-year run. Over the ensuing years, homebrew came to encompass a number of subcultures including video games, where curious hobbyists traded knowledge of coding and circuitry to program new games for their favorite old consoles, and even transform their work into tangible, playable cartridges. Gordon French, Co-Founder of the Homebrew Computer CLub Since joining the staff at VGS on its homebrew team, I wanted to organize a symposium on homebrew. I wanted to ask questions about the community and spark conversation between several prominent members, hoping a lively, ongoing discussion might ensue from their varied perspectives. Perhaps if this piece is well-received and becomes a regular tradition, some future iteration might include a live online panel discussion. In the meantime, I am excited to sift through the thoughts of more than 20 people throughout the homebrew dev community who took the time to share their insights. When deciding which questions I wanted to ask, two categories came to mind: questions that take a snapshot of homebrew, how far it’s come, and where it seems to be going; and questions that I personally wanted to ask based on moments I’ve observed, or debates (even arguments) I wanted to unpack without reigniting any antagonism. Rather than directly ask questions that might imply an effort to provoke, I sought to ask the question behind the question and contextualize the responses with why I wanted to ask it. Whether you agree or disagree with the responses, the questions, or my overall approach, I hope to see how these conversations continue. Nonetheless, not every question was answered by every respondent, and on a few occasions I was chided for missing the point. I welcome better, more probing questions to build on this for future years. My hope is to foster conversation that members of this community feel has value, and may help them articulate their own thoughts. It’s also worth noting that this article and the survey responses that inform it are heavily oriented toward NES homebrew. Though I shared this survey across the forums and Discords I am involved in, my own engagement in communities for other consoles such as those surrounding the Atari and Sega is limited and thus the responses to my outreach were likewise limited. I aspire to be more informed of the wider scene but want to recognize my limits and biases for the sake of being forthright. There are some very compelling thoughts shared in the responses. More than once I have rewritten several sections of this blog post because something I read among the surveys had such a strong impact on what I thought I wanted to say. The arena of public discourse is a powerful thing, not because it is some combative venue for intellectual gladiators, but because taking the time to hear others can further color our opinions with the nuance afforded by other perspectives and thus collectively evolve. So to begin the discussion on the state of homebrew, a good starting point is its underlying definition. What is a homebrew game, and has that definition evolved over time? Have new developments challenged our understanding of what a homebrew is, and have these developments necessitated the use of updated or additional terms to define what exists? DefaultGen made an excellent video breaking down what, to him, constitutes a homebrew as a subcategory of aftermarket games, similar to but distinct from bootlegs, reproductions, and hacks. DefaultGen’s Diagram of Aftermarket Games When I first watched the video, I disagreed with Tyler over a point that focuses on who is a homebrewer rather than what is a homebrew game: namely that I would include larger publishers such as Mega Cat Studios more solidly within homebrew, since I think the nature of the game as a homebrew is not negated because it was developed or published by a company with staff and resources. But the fact that the boundaries of homebrew are so fluid and subjective is exactly why this conversation is interesting and worth having. Homebrew began with a mystique of curious programmers and engineers tinkering in their garages. Does the arrival of professional developers with backgrounds working on AAA games and the promise of big(ish) bucks through Kickstarter broaden what it means to be homebrew, exist in contradiction to it, or simply create a new category? Damian “Tepples/PinoBatch” Yerrick pointed me to some interesting early discussions of this question. In a thread on Slashdot, one user noted homebrew “generally refers to software for systems that do not provide any kind of native programming capability, i.e. games consoles.” Meanwhile a conversation on BootlegGames Wiki distinguished homebrew from bootlegs, arguing: “homebrew games aren’t published by other companies like bootleg games can be. They usually don’t infringe on copyrights in an attempt to make a profit off of them either. They’re usually games that are made just for fun with programming on the console.” The amateur aspect was regarded as especially important by some brewers. When NovaSquirrel observed that “keeping things unprofessional is really important to me”, Sumez and Antoine “FG Software/Vectrex28” Fantys agreed wholeheartedly that the homebrew spirit comes from “fun one-man projects where I have complete creative freedom over it.” Respondents were generally in agreement in their definitions of a homebrew, emphasizing that it be: 1) an unlicensed game; 2) developed for a closed system; 3) by an individual or small team; 4) in a hobbyist/amateur setting. Some people were quite adamant about the setting, insisting a homebrew had to be made at home. Most weren’t nearly as strict but touched on the sentiment that a homebrew should be developed on a small scale, without corporate backing, and wouldn’t be the dev team’s primary source of income. In this way some facets of a working definition are focused on the game, while others center on the developer. This can create some interesting gray areas, such as Tomas “Spoony Bard Productions” Guinan’s self-observation that “Eskimo Bob would be properly defined as homebrew, while Mall Brawl is better described as an indie game.” When asked how their definition had been challenged in recent years, several points were raised. One respondent noted the release of retro homebrews on modern platforms, such as Haunted Halloween ’86 on the Nintendo Switch. Originally a homebrew release for the NES, does the game’s appearance on the Switch mean it is also a Switch homebrew? At the very least it provides a bridge across console generations, allowing the work of retro devs to reach a wider audience, and showing off what is possible with actual 8-bit games that work within the limits of the original hardware rather than merely be 8-bit-inspired. Another interesting point someone raised reflects the closed system criteria several brewers noted. The rise of the PICO-8, an open hardware console has sparked an explosion of creative games, including several ports of NES homebrews such as The Mad Wizard and Alter Ego. A homebrew port of a homebrew! The creative opportunities that surround developing within the limitations of a fantasy video game console aligns with the hobbyist spirit of homebrew. When the PICO-8 appeared it was like the announcement of a new game jam, but instead of a prompt based on a genre or narrative theme, the challenge was a new set of graphical and sound specifications. The two most common challenges that were discussed however were the rise of professionally developed & profit-oriented homebrew games, and the development & release of tools, especially NESmaker and GBStudio, which lowered the barriers to entry of retro game development. These advances highlight the expansion of the homebrew community from both ends of the skills continuum as industry veterans and newcomers joined the scene. In its earlier days, developing homebrew games was notoriously difficult: brewers noted how the work on their own games moved in tandem with their education in learning how to program for the NES. In time, Brian “RetroUSB/bunnyboy” Parker’s Nerdy Nights Tutorials, Shiru’s neslib, and Stef’s SGDK, among other tools, would provide the means to make developing games more accessible. With each new tool created and shared, homebrew’s momentum increased from a walk to a sprint. As the barriers to entry lowered, more people with the ambition and creativity to make their own games were able to bring their ideas to life because the inability to code was less and less insurmountable. And NESmaker pulled down those walls exponentially faster. As they worked on their own game, Mystic Searches, Joe Granato, Austin McKinley, and Josh Fallon collaborated to develop a tool that would facilitate testing without diving back into the code to make every single revision. Recognizing the commercial potential of this tool for other aspiring brewers, this tool, dubbed NESmaker launched on Kickstarter and received more than $250,000 from more than 2,500 backers (with even more support after the initial campaign concluded). Mystic Searches Title Screen Whether it serves as the primary tool of game development or a sandbox to play in and eventually explore beyond, NESmaker has had the biggest impact on NES homebrew development since the Nerdy Nights Tutorials. These programs have become important flintstones to spark the imagination and allow more people to put pixel to palette and share the stories they’ve held onto since they were kids dreaming of making their own game. The tool has brought great talents into the community, including Jordan “Raftronaut” Davis, Dale Coop & his son Seiji, and incredible games like Dungeons & DoomKnights, Doodle World, and someday soon the game NESmaker was originally created to help develop, Mystic Searches. And it’s important to note that NESmaker in many ways mirrors the Nerdy Nights in its value as an educational resource that runs in tandem with its role as a development tool. The conversations found in its dedicated Discord revealed that as often as not, NESmaker devs find the software useful as an onramp to learning how to code, bumping up against the tool’s limitations, and using its framework as a structure on which new code can be customized and added, like working on a hot rod piecemeal in your garage. This feels like a return to homebrew’s roots as a tinkerer’s pursuit, in a very rock ‘n roll way. A lot of new people are entering the scene, and we are watching them grow through their efforts to express themselves. But support can take many forms, and we can be welcoming and inclusive, and still be discriminating in our tastes, discerning what is worth our money without rejecting a segment of games wholesale. I will confess that in buying every physical release I can in order to be a good patron of homebrew, I’ve grown disappointed that I’ve paid the same amount for unpolished first efforts as I have for more carefully crafted releases from established devs. But anything that might serve as a “game changer” will come with its share of controversy, and that’s especially true in the gaming community. NESmaker sparked fears of a wave of shovelware that would saturate the homebrew market, either crowding out games developed by more familiar names or leading less-informed players to paint all homebrew with the same brush and cause all homebrew to rise or fall with the reputation of NESmaker, regardless of whether a game was developed with the tool or not. Several rebuttals in the homebrew community argued that NESmaker was merely the newest among a multitude of tools and shouldn’t be the reason a game is judged one way or another. Instead each game should be considered on its own merits, and to dismiss an entire generation of homebrew because of its association with a particular tool constituted unfair gatekeeping. Did these fears come to pass? It depends. Have we seen shovelware games made with NESmaker? Sure, but there was shovelware homebrew beforehand, and a surge of inferior games made with NESmaker hasn’t saturated the market. Have some gamers had a knee-jerk reaction to a new homebrew game, dismissively asking whether the game was made with NESmaker? I’ve read some anecdotal evidence of this happening when NESmaker was new, but it doesn’t seem to be a widespread problem as much anymore. Instead, like homebrew more generally, NESmaker games have stratified as some games ride a virtuous cycle of support that encourages devs to create more, while other games have given the impression of low-effort cash grabs by opportunists who took their money and seemingly vanished, or who found the weight of criticism discouraging and quit developing. But its potential continues to attract new people and ideas, such as ManiacBoyStudio which is considering developing its NES iteration of Skeler Boy with NESmaker. NESmaker has also generated its own devoted communities, with outlets for engagement through a dedicated forum, Discord, and Facebook group where devs and fans can share their work, collaborate, and help each other. Amidst these outlets Joe and Austin continue to evangelize NESmaker games through their annual Byte-Off Competition. Mockup Image of Skeler Boy for the NES Now that NESmaker has been around for a few years, are there still concerns? The success of a number of homebrews on Kickstarter has led to a surge of homebrews seeking funding through crowdfunding campaigns. This in turn has created a saturation problem specific to Kickstarter in an area with higher mainstream exposure, risking backer burnout with “new games for old consoles” that are not all necessarily going the extra mile to ensure the satisfaction of its backers. Instead, Ellen “Frankengraphics” Larsson noted: “following the wave of NESmaker users, right now we’re seeing a bit much of ‘my first game’ games posing as market-ready releases.” Case in point, when backers received their copies of Ooze Redux, many knew before even opening their packages that they had received a crushed product inside their bubble mailer. Upon opening the package, supporters found a flimsy, uncreased box that was too long to fit into standard box protectors. Manuals were printed on generic printer paper and folded unevenly. Cartridge labels were also cut unevenly and then affixed crookedly. While the homebrew vibe rests on amateur production, even the earliest homebrewers made sure that physical aspects of their releases had a level of polish that justified the cost. Meanwhile, sometimes devs revisit their work to add polish, incorporate new ideas, or even show off how much their skills have improved in the interim. It’s sort of the Star Wars Special Edition treatment of homebrew. Remasters are nothing new, KHAN Games released the Engagement Edition of Larry and the Long Look for a Luscious Lover about 6-7 years after the original edition’s initial run. The newer edition changed the graphics in a few places, input new music in others, and added new animations and cutscenes. Fans who missed the game the first time around and variant collectors gobbled up copies. Working Title: Larry and the Even Longer Look for a Luscious Lover Demand reflected a degree of support and trust in Kevin Hanley, based on his overall body of work as well as the popularity of the first edition of the game from several years earlier. In 2020, Spacebot Interactive developed Dragonbourne for the Gameboy. The following year, Incube8 Games announced Dragonbourne DX for the Gameboy Color, taking advantage of the console shift to update the game with enhanced graphics, improved gameplay, and remastered the soundtrack. Aside from the compatibility with the Gameboy Color, how did all these advancements come to pass in barely a year that the developers couldn’t put this content in the original game? More recently CrazyGroupTrio announced their intention to rerelease Shera & the 40 Thieves, which Kickstarter backers received last fall. When asked why they would make a remaster of the game instead of a sequel, CGT replied: “because I always hated the original and it deserves better.” My question then is, if you hated your original work so much that you’re taking another crack at it less than a year after delivering the original, why did you release that first version at all? Plenty of homebrewers choose delay and would suffer the inevitable criticism in order to release something they were proud of, as we are seeing with highly anticipated games like Full Quiet, Orange Island, and Mystic Searches. As an investor in Shera & the 40 Thieves who pledged $80 for a copy, how am I supposed to feel that I paid a premium for a game which the developer “hated” and will soon release a “better” version? At the end of the day, it’s the dev’s game and they should be able to do what they want with it. My objection stems from what to me feels like too short a period of time between original and remaster. There is no bright line that marks the ideal amount of time before a remaster is appropriate, however I think support indignation is understandable where a “definitive version” comes out so soon that it makes me question backing any future game from the dev, since a better remaster may be just around the corner. But if all fans adopt such a wait-and-see approach then that first version will not garner enough support to be released and potentially discourage the developer from finishing the game at all. How then does the homebrew community overcome these concerns in order to be welcoming and inclusive, but also put its best foot forward at every step? Jordan “Raftronaut” Davis” recognized the balance to be struck: “I understand the fears of established developers who are worried about the market flooding with shovelware, but also understand the importance of 1st time developers opening the doors to new audience[s] for homebrew. I can tell you firsthand that my dumb game resulted in quite a few record nerds getting introduced to homebrew and starting their own collections. Which means more interest in the overall community.” Nonetheless Jordan notes his biggest concern in homebrew today is a lack of beta testing and quality control. He offered a recommendation that would perhaps be a rising tide for homebrew: “It would be nice if there was a normalized routine for community games to go through. It’s obvious that this gets leveled at NESmaker games most often, but these are usually people making their first games, who don’t have a regiment for debugging and testing, or even making proper changes based on beta feedback. It would be nice if there was an unofficial seal of approval awarded to games that have been rigorously vetted, maybe also give insight to first timers in order to encourage improvements.” Such a space could provide any interested devs with a ready-to-play team of testers to improve the game, as well as mentorship from more experienced brewers who could guide newcomers through their tried-and-true processes and connect them with other valuable resources which would take the guesswork out of consistent, high quality physical production. However a seal of approval may be a trickier prospect, as we’ll discuss later. As homebrew has grown and gained wider attention, it has attracted the interest of veteran developers and large companies eager to create, produce, and distribute new games. In the past, referring to someone as a veteran in the homebrew community meant someone who had been a longstanding and engaged member; including well-known developers and collectors like Kevin “KHAN Games” Hanley or Christian “Ferris Bueller” Deitering. Similarly, early companies that developed some of their own games yet were largely known as publishers for others may have pushed the boundaries of what made a game a “homebrew”, nonetheless stood with both feet firmly in the homebrew scene, such as RetroUSB and InfiniteNESLives. However respondents noted that being a “veteran” in the community is growing a second definition: professional game developers trying their hand at creating games for older consoles. Recent examples include the SNES game Unholy Night: The Darkness Hunter, developed in 2017 by a team of former SNK members, or Orange Island, an upcoming game (that will include an NES port) by Ted Sterchi, who is a former designer for Sega. Likewise, retro gaming behemoth Limited Run Games has leveraged its publishing muscle and massive following to bankroll and release a handful of homebrew games alongside its modern and retro-rerelease offerings, including Alwa’s Awakening, Jay & Silent Bob: Mall Brawl, and Witch n Wiz. Screenshot from Unholy Night: The Darkness Hunter for SNES There seems to be some consensus among respondents that these arrivals challenge the hobbyist aspect of homebrewing, introducing a level of existing skill to a place where people were previously using their projects to develop themselves and learn over time. This prompted the sense that passion and personality were being joined by a new quality: profit. While no one spoke negatively about the arrival of industry vets and corporate backing, other than to say that these projects may not technically be homebrews, there is a tension to this trend: will these developers and companies, with their larger mainstream followings, bring more attention to homebrew as gamers get curious to see what else they can play, or do these names become monoliths eclipsing hobbyists and leaving gamers to wonder if a game is worth it if it isn’t associated with these larger brands? These questions are hardly new to the community, the same conversation referenced earlier on BootlegGames Wiki noted how “the lines can blur a little bit when homebrew game makers start selling their games on cartridge,” feeling that selling a handful of carts at a convention was still a hobbyist having fun, but wondering how many copies sold marked the line between the hobbyist’s homebrew and a professional’s unlicensed game. Or perhaps this niche of retro gaming has simply grown so much that different terms are necessary to conceptualize it all accurately. So far, I’ve been using the word “homebrew” and its fluid definition, but other words might be more illuminating. “Aftermarket games” has proven to be a useful umbrella term that includes homebrews, hacks, bootlegs, repros, etc. The word “indie” has appeared with increasing frequency to promote new games for old consoles. Can/should “indie” and “homebrew” be used interchangeably, or should the former refer to more professionally developed games, while the latter is reserved for hobbyists? I wanted to ask this question based on a conversation in VGS’ Brewery Discord in March 2021, in which Jared “jekuthiel” Hoag stated that he "take[s] the term 'homebrew' as an insult, given what [he] is trying to do" in reference to his project (the upcoming Former Dawn), noting the size of his team and the intention to release the game on modern platforms as well as the NES. My initial reaction was defensive: how can you enter a community, engage with its creators and fans, share your work with the goal of marketing your game to this demographic, and be insulted that your game would be associated with the terminology the community uses to define itself? To me, it implied a sense of superiority over those who were comfortable applying the homebrew term to their own work. Image from Former Dawn by Something Nerdy Studios This is another point where reading survey responses added some nuance to my feelings and helped me broaden my understanding. I can appreciate how other terminology might be more fitting. But I personally think it’s insulting to other devs and the community at large that one might react so strongly that their game would be called a homebrew while simultaneously promoting their game throughout the homebrew community. This is the terminology that the wider community has evolved for itself, can someone be a part of that community while rejecting the term as beneath them? Perhaps that is a reflection of the gray areas at the edges of the definition of homebrew. Sumez made an interesting point how a game came be a “product of the homebrew community, even if it maybe can't really be defined as a homebrew product.” The sentiment returned in a post to the NESmakers Facebook group in which the publisher of Cool Sh#t Magazine stated his dislike for the term “homebrew”, writing how he felt it cheapened the work of those he considers “indie developers.” At the end of the day, our feelings about proper terminology in contexts such as this may say more about what we individually bring into the conversation than reflect any real argument, but I do think it odd (and off-putting) for someone to enter a longstanding community and reject the terms it has used to define itself for years, making normative judgments about the implied quality associated with particular terms compared to others. The vast majority of respondents felt creators should be able to categorize their work however they want; that “homebrew” or “indie” or some as yet uncoined term is a matter of self-identification. Several excellent quotes emerged in response to this question. Nathan “Bite the Chili/gauauu” Tolbert felt there was “no need to draw lines as a community…but we should respect everyone’s individual interests,” expressing less interest in a game with substantial funding behind it. Nicolas Bétoux of Morphcat fame believes homebrew is perhaps “a word that we maybe lost the initial sense [of]” as it has become blended with the larger concept of a “neo retro game,” of which “homebrew” is a part of it as much as “indie.” Ellen “Frankengraphics” Larsson believes “homebrew encompasses all levels of skill and previous merit. It’s more about the authenticity of the thing which often gets lost in too big teams.” Donny “Toggleswitch” Philips doesn’t believe someone who considers themselves an industry veteran or is well-funded should be called a homebrewer, but “if somebody takes issue with being called a homebrewer, then in my opinion it’s up to them to push the quality of their project in a way that stands head and shoulders above the rest.” Turning now to a thought exercise that emerged on the VGS forum several months ago, a member asked how NES homebrew today compares against its licensed forbears. As subjective as that question is, I asked the community where they thought the homebrew scene right now matched the licensed era. Many respondents rejected this question as superficial, silly, and uninformative. Nonetheless 5 people felt homebrew is currently on par with the 1987-1989 segment of gaming, while 5 others believed homebrew reached equivalence with games from 1990-1991. Two prominent games from those respective time spans Other interesting ideas argued that homebrew has passed the original NROM era, as well as the first wave of Capcom and Konami games. But the truth is, with the benefit of being influenced by all that has come before, brewers are able to make games that capture the essence of a particular moment in time. While their skills match one era of licensed gaming, their passion delivers games reminiscent of another, which will color our perception and blur technical ability with intentional aesthetic. Adam “Artix” Bohn proposed a better question: where are the top homebrew games compared to the 1985-1995 range? Brad “NES Homebrew” Bateman also offered a more meaningful metric: that we should compare each dev’s releases over the years against each other, to truly observe a dev’s progression. A question asking if there is a benchmark at which homebrew has “made it” and whether that point has been reached was similarly panned. Most respondents felt that the spirit of homebrew cares little about mainstream appeal, so “making it” is an irrelevant consideration. However, some noted a few developments which have marked meaningful growth in the community. Lower barriers to entry have been facilitated quite well by NESmaker and GBStudio. The expansion of homebrew’s reach onto PC and Switch releases, and the growing assortment of Evercade compilation carts has carried homebrew onto modern platforms. The scale of the Micro Mages Kickstarter’s success represented an explosive epiphany regarding the demand for homebrew games. For all this success, one respondent continues to look over the horizon, feeling the benchmark for him will be the arrival of a game on par with Super Mario Bros. 3 or Kirby’s Adventure. A day hopefully not too far off. Perhaps rather than focus on amorphous notions of where homebrew stands as a whole, we can marvel at the new places homebrew is going, and where it might venture next. I asked what is on the cutting edge of homebrew right now, and what is capturing the community’s imagination. Answers spanned a host of specific games as well as more general developments. Among the games that have caught the community’s eye, Astro Ninja Man, Alwa’s Awakening, and Micro Mages stood out as impressive recent releases (with Micro Mages getting plaudits for its incorporation of modern gameplay attributes). When considering games in-development that has fans salivating, Former Dawn, Orange Island, Halcyon, Full Quiet, Space Soviets, and Rally Rally Rally Rally were front of mind. Respondents expressed enthusiasm for upcoming new hardware such as the Rainbow Wi-Fi cart, and the MXM cart, while continuing to sing the praises of music carts, flash save memory, and expansion audio. One respondent shared their anticipation for homebrew’s expansion to the N64, raising the prospect of more 3D homebrew. But above all, what is fascinating devs and fans is seeing more people pouring their love and creativity into games. Broke Studio’s Rainbow Wi-Fi Cart With the myriad new games and developments to hardware that have come or are visible on the horizon, I also asked where respondents want to see homebrew go in the next few years. Glimpsing what soon will be, what long-term aspirations do we hope will emerge in the distance? One grand ambition shared by multiple respondents was recognition from Nintendo itself, alongside more mainstream attention. This might seem to conflict with the previously mentioned feeling among devs that mainstream popularity is an irrelevant consideration to homebrew. But part of this hope may emanate from the longstanding existential fear that Nintendo or Sega might quash homebrew with cease & desist orders. So while larger appeal isn’t top of mind for devs in how they measure the success of their games, there is a certain security that devs want that would make them feel able to continue to create. But with the arrival of homebrew games like Haunted Halloween ’86 and Battle Kid to the Nintendo Switch, devs can breathe a little easier. Another common sentiment was that we might simply see more of what we have: more games and more devs, especially in areas ripe for growth such as the SNES. Observing a sort of generational gap, M-Tee issued a challenge to veteran brewers, wanting to see them rise to the quality we’re seeing from newer devs entering the scene. Hoping to foster more cohesion and echoing Jordan Davis’ attitudes, Adam Bohn would like to see more support between veteran and new devs, enabling a passing and preservation of knowledge will be the catalyst for a virtuous cycle. But speaking of inclusivity, an anonymous respondent expressed hope that the homebrew community will become more accepting of marginalized communities. It’s no secret that the homebrew community isn’t particularly diverse, overwhelmingly populated by cis white men. That’s not to say the community is devoid of women, people of color, or people from the LGBTQIA+ community, but, as in so many other areas of life more could be done. In an un-diverse space, sexism, racism, homophobia, and transphobia can easily take root. In un-diverse spaces, the majority can lack empathy for the marginalized in favor of their own comfort. I’ve noticed strong defenses of “free speech” on forums and Discords in response to criticisms of slurs and offensive jokes, and a disrespectful refusal to gender people in accordance with their identity. The lawyer side of my brain bristles at such widespread misunderstanding of the First Amendment. These are not public spaces and moderators are not government actors; the freedom of speech is not unlimited here, and in order to foster a wider, more inclusive community, one in which everyone feels seen and safe, we must realign our priorities and prove it every day by protecting the security of the few over the entitlement of the many. Because respecting people is a matter of human rights Which leads me to my next big question, asking what concerns respondents had about the homebrew community. Some concerns grew out of recent phenomena. The pandemic’s effect on supply chains generally, and chip shortages more specifically have hampered physical releases. Its inconsistent impact has allowed some games to move forward, while releases such as Action 53, Volume 4 remain delayed. Hopefully the restoration of global commerce to its pre-pandemic state will slowly unclog these backlogs, though the marketplace’s fragility will always find a new problem. Meanwhile the large-scale adoption of Discord revealed new concerns over the accessibility and attention of the homebrew community. As developers seek to cultivate devoted followings and promote their work, they’ve noticed that the multitude of Discord servers has fractured the community and exhausted fans as each additional server becomes a burden leaving fans hesitant to join. The knee jerk solution was to suggest consolidating Discords or designating one as a hub to others, but to point to any one server and say “this is the Discord” would be obnoxious and presumptuous. What do we do then? Much of what has been voiced previously continued into this portion of survey responses: the insularity of the community itself, fears that Nintendo or Sega will use litigation to collapse homebrew, concerns that shovelware on Kickstarter will diminish homebrew in the eyes of the larger gaming community that is less familiar with the homebrew subculture, and whether tools making game development easier are diminishing the sense of accomplishment that comes with releasing a game. With regard to the latter, my observations suggest that is a concern we need not worry about. The sense of accomplishment derived from making your own game is a personal feeling and shouldn’t be threatened by what might allow another to obtain that feeling for themselves. And if a dev worried their own choice of tools would ruin that sense of accomplishment, they can simply follow their own heart and preferences and use whatever tools will preserve that feeling they seek. More importantly, I feel that so much focus has been placed on tools like NESmaker and GBStudio as a means to develop games, and not enough on their value as educational steppingstones to learning how to develop games “from the ground up” if that is something the user aspires to. The Nerdy Nights Tutorials and existing literature, fantastic resources that they are, can be indecipherable if you don’t already have a passing familiarity with coding in C or 6502 Assembly. Exploring the NESmaker Discord revealed illuminating discussions that many users found the tool helpful in learning to code in a defined sandbox, but quickly found themselves bumping against its limitations. The evolution of several rising brewers can be found in their popping the hood of NESmaker and learning to develop beyond what the tool itself provides. Much like Chris “Optomon” Lincoln’s description of learning to code through his hacks of existing games, a number of brewers learned and grew through figuring out how to make something specific happen in their game that the initial set of tools could not provide. Perhaps then a better conceptualization is not whether a game is lesser for what helped make it, but an outward-looking sensibility: who is rising to prominence thanks to their start with these tools? As Yoda observed: “we are what they grow beyond.” May we appreciate this tool through the lens of the talented people it has forged. Jordan Davis and others noted their concern that the homebrew community lacks access to efficient beta testing and quality control resources. On the other hand, created a centralized hub of willing beta testers and devs interested in providing close mentorship would foster community among its members while increasing the quality of any game that participated. Some advocated for a substantive seal of approval to denote a sense of objective quality. Two lively debates emerged on the subject at NESdev and on the NESmaker Facebook group, weighing the general value of a special mark, the considerations behind any standards that might be created for its use, or even whether a mark that would be freely available had value. Ultimately the homebrew community, which generally lacks the funds to establish, nevermind defend a registered trademark, would be ill-served by a logo that at best would be widely stolen without repercussion, and thus rendered meaningless, and at worst serve as a gatekeeping stamp that would amplify polarization among brewers. Matt Hughson’s (left) and Yan Ian Hook’s (right) homebrew seal designs In thinking of ways to expand the community, I asked if there were any roles or services beyond traditional game development that respondents felt could be an asset to the community. Admittedly there was a degree of self-interest in this question. As a practicing attorney who will probably never learn to code, I was curious to know if the community thought it could use the skills of someone like me, but also anyone else whose day job and skills could be leveraged in service of homebrew. The question first popped into my head a few years ago during the debate over who held ownership rights over Black Box Challenge. I would rather not relitigate this matter, but interested people can find one segment of the argument here on the VGS forum, and other relevant information on Jeffrey “Hagen’s Alley” Wittenhagen’s podcast here (around the 20-minute mark). At this time Rob “Sly Dog Studios” Bryant has deleted his Twitter account and therefore his posts on the subject are not available. In response to the ensuing argument I wondered if homebrew had outgrown handshake agreements, even between friends. Was there demand for someone to draft contracts and agreements so every member of a project was on the same page regarding expectations, and could point to the same document to resolve disputes or ambiguities? Although I’ve gotten some work drafting various agreements for homebrew, the jury is still out whether the larger community has any interest in my skills, though I’m loathe to be too aggressive in advertising myself. But enough about me! Respondents offered a plethora of suggestions for roles that would make homebrew development more robust and facilitate their own efforts. One role that has been requested already here is game testing. Devs are eager to have an army of beta testers who might identify bugs and offer feedback that will elevate the game when the time comes for its release. A reliable source of available and genuinely interested testers would offer fresh eyes for anything devs overlooked or wouldn’t think to poke at. I say “genuinely” because I’ve noticed in some Discord channels people eagerly sign up to beta test a game or proofread text, only to note afterwards that they never had the time to contribute anything (if they say anything at all), or people who try to join after the fact, but whose words imply their interest is more in getting a free rom. The latter reeks of piracy while the former reminds me of those people who spam YouTube/Twitch streamers to be moderators despite not knowing the person and demonstrating limited engagement with the channel because they like to feel important and collect titles. A ready-to-play reservoir of reliable beta testers would be a boon to homebrew’s efforts at quality control. The question then is what standards to set to ensure only reliable people are recruited. The most common stated need from respondents was for marketing and promotional assistance. Just about every dev who has sought crowdfunding for their game also lamented how exhausting the promotional work can be in order to build, and maintain hype for their game. In the same way many devs were happy to delegate publishing their games to companies like RetroUSB, InfiniteNESLives, Broke Studio, and Mega Cat Studios, brewers are expressing an interest in finding people who are willing to take responsibility for marketing their games, creating promotional content, and engaging with fans to maintain excitement until the game’s release. Among the other roles respondents said would be valuable, several highlighted the difficulty of finding people to collaborate with, as well as resources for obtaining physical materials. Respondents noted the need for help publishing their games, including identifying box and manual printers. Although options exist, such as Frank Westphal who is well-known for his box production work, he isn’t active in major homebrew spaces and therefore can be hard to find if you’re new to the community. So what is the best means for getting in touch with him, or anyone else who providers these services? Is there a menu of products and costs people can consult ahead of time? Similarly, respondents mentioned how hard it can be to find pixel artists, illustrators, chiptune musicians, and other programmers who are available, or they know a few places where collaborators can be found, but the culture seems hostile and cliquey toward newcomers. It makes me wonder how many great games may be languishing because the team to bring it to life is having trouble getting assembled. This sounds like a great opportunity for VGS to help. In response to concerns that conversations and opportunities to showcase their work were getting fractured, we created additional channels in our Discord, adding #brewery-graphics and #brewery-music to the mix, while the existing channel was renamed #brewery-general. In a similar effort to help brewers highlight their portfolio and collaborate, we are creating a new subforum on the website: Brewer Portfolio/Help Wanted. Members can create their own threads as a sort of profile to highlight their work and advertise their availability to work on new projects. Members can also make job postings, soliciting others to reach out if interested in collaborating. Apply within! Beyond some of these deeper conversations on the future of homebrew and working through questions that might be provocative, I also wanted to ask if the community itself wanted to recognize any of its members and celebrate them. Not everyone responded to this section, leaving me to assume there was reluctance to single anyone out and stoke tension and competition. It is not my intention to make anyone feel less than, but to celebrate the wide array of talents and styles this community is blessed to include. To that end I asked who is the best programmer, pixel artist, and chiptune musician? Who is underrated? Who is new to the homebrew scene that everyone should be paying attention to? Who has been dormant that you would like to see active again? Is there a shelved project you want to see return to active development? I tried to include real names and well-known handles where possible, but was unable to learn both for everyone. Starting with the community’s overall favorites, those for whom we are always drooling over their latest update, Julius Riecke (Morphcat) was voted best programmer, Frankengraphics as best pixel artist, and Tuï as best chiptune musician. They are each known for a host of games, both released and still in progress, but worth highlighting is Morphcat’s work on Micro Mages, Frankengraphics’ upcoming “Project Borscht”, and Tuï’s work on From Below. Other programmers recognized by respondents include Damian Yerrick (Thwaite), Zeta0134 (RusticNES), Brad Smith (Lizard), Bitmap Bureau (Xeno Crisis), Dustmop (Star Versus), Łukasz (Gruniożerca), Valdir Salgueiro (Roniu’s Tale), Dale Coop (Zdey: The Game), and Fernando Fernandez (Chaos Between Realms). Other pixel artists who were recognized include Surt, Nicolas Bétoux (Morphcat), Fernando Fernandez, and Clarion (Dungeons & DoomKnights). I made the mistake of getting ahead of myself and posted on Twitter that Ellen was the only pixel artist named in the survey responses, when it would be more correct to say that she was named by every survey I had read so far. I apologize for my incorrect statement. Other chiptune musicians recognized include Richard “Kulor” Armijo (Alter Ego), Julius Riecke, Thomas “thehumanthomas” Cipollone (Unicorn), Chip Jockey (Gruniożerca 3), and Thomas “Zi” Ragonnet (8-Bit Xmas series). Kudos to Miau, Frankengraphics, and Tuï! When asked to name an underrated member of the homebrew community, Joseph “Yoey” Provencio and Pubby stood out, known for Project Chocoblip and We are Hejickle respectively. Others recognized for their talents include Kasumi (Indivisible), Jordan Davis (Space Raft), Chris “Dullahan Software” Cacciatore (Nebs ‘n Debs), Valdir Salgueiro, RetroSouls (Misplaced), Antoine “Broke Studio” Gohin (Twin Dragons), M-Tee (The Cowlitz Gamers 2nd Adventure), and Adam “Second Dimension” Welch (Eyra-The Crow Maiden). As the underrated talents of the community, you should look into each of their portfolios now and get excited for what they have brewing. Cheers to Yoey & Pubby! As the community grows, new talent continues to be attracted to the scene, and their fresh ideas fire our imaginations. Asked to identify their favorite newcomers to watch, Matt Hughson was the consensus pick. Matt has been exciting fans with his work on Witch n Wiz as well as Blades of the Lotus for this year’s NESdev Compo. Other recent additions to the community who have gotten people talking include Wendel Scardua (Fire of Rebellion), Alastair Low (Tapeworm Disco Puzzle), Fernando Fernandez, and Skyboy (Fire and Rescue). Great to have you Matt! But for all the people who are sharing their work and whose games have excited us lately, we also want to recognize those people from the past who inspired us, and who for one reason or another have gone quiet. Some have taken a step back to focus on their families and primary careers, others are coping with hardships, and some have moved on to new challenges. We don’t mean to pressure them to return but want to offer tribute to those from yesteryear whom we miss dearly. Respondents shared how they are pining for news from Joe “Memblers” Parsell, Tim “Orab Games” Hartman, Derek “Gradual Games” Andrews, Shiru, Rob “Sly Dog Studios” Bryant, Frank Westphal, Neil Baldwin, Alp, and Sivak. We miss you and hope you’re doing well. Not only do we wish to express our love for dormant brews, but also several specific games we hope will rise out of limbo. If Kickstarters were announced today for Dimension Shift or a completed Super Bat Puncher, respondents might empty their bank accounts on the spot. In a wonderful bit of self-deprecating humor, a number of devs voted for their own games when asked what shelved projects they wanted to see resume development. But also included among their answers were Celestar, The Gift of Discernment, Eskimo Bob 3, Isolation, ROM City Rampage, and SNESmaker. Since joining VGS’ Homebrew Team I have enjoyed playing around with the kinds of projects that were important to me. I already had my Homebrew Almanac and Homebrew on the Horizon threads, I developed my blog about new games, I helped organize a homebrew leaderboard competition with Chris/Deadeye, and I try to connect fans with games on their wish list. I’ve even launched a collaboration with Mega Cat Studios to release homebrews on cartridge, starting with Diamond Thieves (and launched a blog to cover those new games as well). But this survey felt like a meaningful opportunity to ask the community what VGS could do to serve as a worthwhile platform and resource. We don’t want to replace or disparage existing outlets, but we do want to fill gaps and be of value. The consensus among respondents was that we should try and build something unique that doesn’t try to replicate NESdev, but then again most felt we couldn’t if we wanted to anyway, since VGS is more a platform to connect with fans. However we received praise for our Discord becoming one of the go-to places for homebrew discussion. We are happy to have this space which has fostered community. Recommendations included developing a space where devs could share progress on their games and engage with/market to players. Sumez requested dedicated spaces where devs could show off their work, such as a revamped profile page that could be a mix between existing profile pages and something informational like LinkedIn. We have also been asked to work to be more inclusive and protective of marginalized communities, respond to bad behavior, and remove bad actors. The staff has tried to be more active in curtailing prejudice and casual slurring, but as always, we need your help in spotting it so we can be as responsive as possible. The last question on the original survey asked the tongue in cheek question whether the homebrew bubble had yet burst. Most respondents either answered “not yet” or made a much-appreciated Böbl joke. I tried to pick a screenshot that would really pop But as with the rest of his responses, Jordan Davis offered a wonderfully insightful answer I want to share. Reflecting on the longevity of the homebrew scene, and the particular appeal of coding for the NES over other consoles that came before or since, Jordan observed: “Video games themselves are a young medium, going backwards for inspiration into a young medium is a rare phenomenon. Imagine if film directors of the 30s and 40s decided to go back and start making silent films, just because they saw Dr. Caligari in junior high or something. There is an appreciation of history of the medium that goes along with the homebrew and retro game scene, it’s often very academic.” For all the advancements in technology and storytelling we have seen as video games evolved from the 80s to today, there is something persistently fascinating about the nostalgia that drives us to reach back to collect these older games, but which also inspires some to create new games reminiscent of that time. In the time since I sent out my initial survey, new questions came to mind. As homebrew sporadically gains mainstream attention, how does the community feel about engagement with the media? Should journalists observe from a distance, like a documentarian covering wildlife, or should they engage the wider community so when their article comes out, community members aren’t wondering where this person or their impressions came from? What can devs do to promote engagement? In response to this question, the consensus was that while there is an expectation that journalists writing a piece on the community are talking to its members, no such responsibility exists when the written piece is merely the author’s observations or is simply a review of the scene’s offerings. Nevertheless, M-Tee noted that as members of this community, we have a responsibility to each other to be ambassadors who do not present this community as a hostile environment to anyone. If anything, engagement should be encouraged and where possible aided by searchable and digestible information, ideally generated by the non-developers of the community (to, in his view, minimize pulling brewers from their dev work). As homebrew draws larger audiences, should homebrew be guided by the passion and preferences of creators, or should the interests and convenience of customers prevail? And given players’ desire for convenience and ease of access, what are the ethics surrounding pirated roms and repros? Should players respect the publication choices of creators if a game they want to play is not available through their preferred mode of play or is too expensive, or in the absence of a legitimate option, may they turn to illegitimate ones to play the games they want to play? The consensus on these questions reflected a sense that players can express their preferences regarding homebrew games that appeal most to them, whether that’s a matter of favored genres or the availability of released games on physical cartridges, digitally available as roms, or made compatible with mobile devices. However at the end of the day, because homebrew is at its core a hobbyist passion, it will always ultimately be creator driven. Despite this dynamic, the ethical questions surrounding player access to rarer homebrew games persists. A handful of VGS members have made clear their beliefs that if they want to play a particular game and cannot obtain it legitimately, illegitimate means are acceptable, and it is the creator’s fault for not doing enough to make it so that player could have the game. Rejecting the creator’s preferences and pointing to the admittedly opportunistic greed of some resellers with no connection to the original developers, these players justify using pirating roms and repros because they feel they shouldn’t have to pay a premium or go without if they don’t want to. M-Tee noted that social acceptance of pirating creates an uphill battle for establishing and respecting creator rights. Spacepup echoes the importance of respecting the devs’ wishes, and those players are not entitled to content just because they want it. Just because a game’s sale no longer connects to and benefits the creator, doesn’t mark its entry into an acceptable pirating free for all. Considering the nuances of this issue, Nathan Tolbert feels that while honoring a developer’s wishes regarding distribution is ethically correct, it is up to the individual regarding the download and use of pirated content, but that selling and redistributing it is unethical. In an October 2021 conversation in VGS’s brewery Discord, several people shared their opinions on the dumping, reproduction, and sale of pirating homebrew games. Specifically, community members wondered what (if any) amount of time was enough for it to be acceptable for someone to share a rom they have? What if, at some point in the future, someone wants to play a play that is unavailable and they are unable to reach the creator to get permission to reproduce a copy despite a good faith effort? From her perspective, Ellen Larsson felt that “not as a homebrewer, but as an author. It doesn't matter if I write a novel or make a game. Hands off unless it's the intention to distribute it freely or if the author decides to change the license.” However she adds that she would make an exception for the preservation of otherwise endangered files or if something made was freely distributable. Sumez believed it is “super disrespectful towards the author to just throw their stuff out as piracy no matter how many years have passed, 1, 2, or 60, but if they are genuinely impossible to get in contact with or in any way warrant any kind of new release of authorization of free distribution, then I guess fair. But no matter how much someone can go ‘gee, it's an old game, it should be free, because people deserve to play it’, it's up to the author. If it should be free, let the author give it out free.” Nathan Tolbert emphasized the point about being unable to reach the creator: “Personally, if I've disappeared from the scene for a few years (3?), and nobody knows how to get ahold of me, I'd be fine with folks releasing dumps of my games. But that's definitely not what I think everyone has to agree to.” Brian Parker agreed, noting that if “a few (3-5?) years after honest contact efforts get zero reply, do whatever. If its legit preservation (VGHF) take everything at anytime.” Meanwhile NovaSquirrel had a more open stance, believing “if someone doesn't want to give me the ability to buy a game anymore then it's on them.” Josué “Trirosmos” Oliveira disagreed, believing “that the free sharing of files and information are and should be central pillars of the internet. I'm not necessarily gonna make it easier than it has to be to get access to things I've made that I'm trying to sell... but if you go through the trouble and literally spend your own time and money so that other people can freely access it, I'm not gonna stop you.” Josué expanded on his position, noting that without piracy of PlayStation games, the Brazilian gaming and dev scene might not exist. That said, he does believe there are behaviors which are relatively more/less acceptable, feeling the “selling of bootlegs of homebrew games feels a lot worse to me than just having the ROM on some website.” The variety of opinions on this subject are as numerous as the number of people in the community, given the different backgrounds, cultures, experiences, and motivations it encompasses. Perhaps a deeper conversation will be a good place to ground another survey next year. I’ll just leave this xtreme PSA as a placeholder Homebrew has come a long way. It’s come so far and evolved to such heights that the word itself has begun to give way to other terms that describe related spaces of this ever-growing community. It is not without its growing pains though, as the community encompasses more people and raises new questions, some of which are likely unanswerable. The point is not that every question be put to rest, but that asking it yields a worthwhile, respectful discussion. This discussion aspires to bring as many perspectives as possible into an open space where the community can witness the diversity around them and understand the variety of experiences which give rise to the games they enjoy. Such is the marketplace of ideas. I hoped the surveys supporting this piece could generate a sort of symposium on the state of homebrew, sourced from a variety of creators whose talents have built this scene. This community is in many ways the literal stuff dreams are made of, and the imagination on display with each new game inspires the next person, and so with each passing moment the possibilities are somehow even more endless. This place isn’t perfect, but by understanding and appreciating what brings us here, and creating the infrastructure that safely enables us to create or support these games is what makes this space great. The state of homebrew remains strong! So I hope you continue to love these games, and tune in to this blog because when you see each post, you know that…
  8. A Homebrew Draws Near! A blog series by @Scrobins Episode 26: Alwa’s Awakening Introduction: The deep catalog of 8-bit inspired games has fired up enthusiasm for retro content, leading to the development of similar new games, hunger for the old games that served as the catalyst for this new appetite, and adding momentum to the homebrew games that bridge the gap between them. Some of the most popular of these retro/modern hybrids hew so closely to the limits of the hardware that defined those bygone eras which inspired their work that they could play on those very consoles with a little tweaking. And once in a while, someone decides to make those tweaks, adapting a game so it may cross the bridge from 8-bit inspired to truly 8-bit. Not different enough to be demakes, these adaptations make you question whether there is any difference between the game on modern or older platforms, so smooth and seamless was the work. For this entry, I’m covering Alwa’s Awakening, an action platformer developed by Elden Pixels for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and brought to the NES by Brad Smith (of Lizard fame). As of the time of this writing, Alwa’s Awakening is sold out in its physical and digical iterations, but is still available digitally on Steam here. Development Team: Mikael Forslind: game design Robert Kreese: music Kevin Andersson: programming Alexander Berggren: pixel art Brad Smith: NES port lead programmer Full physical glory Game Evolution: Alwa’s Awakening first dawned on its creators in 2014. The crew at Elden Pixels worked tirelessly on the game so it could be released in 2017 for the PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. In response to the praise Alwa received, Elden Pixels released the soundtrack on a functioning NES cartridge in 2018, which included a guest track by Prof. Sakamoto, and a limited edition 50 cartridge run published by Mega Cat Studios. News of an actual 8-bit port of the original game began with Paul “Infinite NES Lives” Molloy livestreaming a series of development sessions in which he worked on a faithful fan port of Alwa’s Awakening. The first session was held on January 17, 2019, continuing for a total of 49 livestreams that concluded on January 30, 2020. Screenshot from one of Paul Molloy’s dev streams As Paul pivoted to focus on other projects, Elden Pixels officially tapped Brad Smith to port the game. Elden Pixels didn't snooze on their development updates as teasers poured in from Twitter, stirring fans when pre-orders opened on September 14, 2021, through publishers Retro-Bit Publishing and Limited Run Games. Two major options were on offer: a special physical release with a CIB and frosted clear cartridge, an exclusive slipcover, a booklet with developer interview, a mini level poster, an animated lenticular card, and a certificate of authenticity; also available was a hybrid “digical” tier with an 8 GB USB of Zoe containing the game, manual, developer interview, and digital wallpapers with exclusive artwork, and a displayable package for the Zoe drive. The new port advertised new areas and songs allowing players of the original game some new content to enjoy. Over the course of the summer of 2022, fans would rise and shine, finding their copies waiting in their mailbox, while this iteration of the game was released on Steam on July 1, 2022. The digical edition Gameplay: Alwa’s Awakening describes itself as an adventure game inspired by forebears such as Battle of Olympus and Solstice. You play as Zoe, a gamer girl who dozed off while playing her favorite game only to wake up in the game itself. Finding herself in the land of Alwa, Zoe is called to answer the people’s pleas for help. She must find and defeat the four Protectors, collecting their items in order to open the path to a final challenge. The people you meet and the items you collect along the way will help you navigate Alwa in your quest to defeat Vicar. Gameplay includes you moving from one screen to the next, using your skills to get to the next area (or recognizing which areas are inaccessible for now until you acquire a vital tool). The controls are straightforward: the D-pad moves Zoe, the A button allows her to jump, the B button unleashes an attack or action, the Start button switches to view your map and inventory, and the Select button toggles through your magic. Along the way you will acquire the means & magics to go farther and fight harder. Screenshot from Alwa’s Awakening Review: Alwa’s Awakening is an enveloping adventure, the kind that mesmerizes players so well they won’t realize they have been playing all day. I often note that a game would have fit in well alongside the games it emulates, but in truth, Alwa would have dominated the market back then. A stunning, well-balanced game that had it been released in the 80s or 90s might well have pushed out the games it draws inspiration from. In all likelihood a licensed-era 8-bit Alwa would have launched a franchise that would have changed gaming history and probably led future developers to call their games an Alwa-like. Once again, we have an example of the quality that homebrew can bring, when a labor of love can develop independent of profit-minded corporate timetables. Gameplay is at its core straightforward for an adventure game, but Alwa pulls its modern game sensibilities into the 8-bit realm. The map details your progress trekking through this fantastical world, helping you find important locations such as checkpoints, warps, and the Protector bosses, and thus identify your path. Upgrades to your magic likewise open more of the world to your exploration, such as the power to break blocks, create blocks, or float on bubbles; abilities which remind me as much of Battle Kid and The Mad Wizard as Zelda II and Battle of Olympus. The world is full of secrets and there is a completion percentage à la Kirby’s Adventure that will delight (and frustrate) completionists. Challenging without being overly hard, you share Zoe’s wonder at this new land and feel a sense of envy for a character living your childhood dream. Screenshot from one of Brad Smith’s dev videos Graphically Alwa’s Awakening seems like it must somehow be breaking the NES’ color palette limits, such is the stunning beauty of its sprites and backgrounds. Not only do players enjoy a wide range of color spanning the world’s many screens and environments, but the scenery seems deeper and richer than what we’ve seen before. Alwa is such a wonderfully crafted world, that even after you turn off the game, you might imagine the lore surrounding the land, writing a prequel tale in your head as you anticipate playing more later. The soundtrack moves in tandem with the graphics, offering adventurous tunes that prod you along and bolster your sense of epic purpose without feeling monotonous. Long before pre-orders for this 8-bit edition opened, I managed to track down a copy of the soundtrack’s chiptune cart and let me say that I popped that cart in one evening and happily sat back to listen to the entire playlist. The music alone was that enjoyable. Interviews: For the juicy stories about how this game came to be and then was reborn on the NES, I interviewed two prominent members of the development team about their backgrounds and inspiration… Mikael Forslind @MikaelForslind -Before we dive into Alwa’s Awakening, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a game designer and producer? What is your origin story and the story behind Elden Pixels? Well, I've told this story a few times but I've always been interested in creating digital stuff. I made my first "game" back in the late eighties when I created this maze-like Zelda clone where Link was this giant green block and you walked around on this map. The computer I used was so old so there was no way of saving anything so I remember spending a whole day creating the game and then being sad when I had to turn the power off and the game was deleted. But fast-forward to 2014 and I got my first job in the gaming industry as a marketing manager at then indie studio Image & Form (makers of the SteamWorld games and now merged into Thunderful) and although I did feel I knew quite a lot about marketing and the art of video games I didn't know how to make them myself. I felt I wanted to learn that skill too so I got a group of friends together and during the span of about two years we created Alwa's Awakening and released it on Steam early 2017. We made the entire game ourselves on nights and weekends and the plan was to release it and leave it at that but the game became quite popular for a small indie title so we knew it had more potential. During the development I kept my regular job as a marketing manager and about four years ago, I decided to go full-time with Elden Pixels so I quit my normal day job and me and two of the original members of the team started full-time and we began working with the sequel Alwa's Legacy. Screenshot from Alwa’s Legacy -In addition to being a game designer, you have a background in business and marketing from such companies as Image & Form and Zoink. In what ways has your past experience informed the work you do at Elden Pixels? I worked as a marketing manager for about four years before I started Elden Pixels so I learned a lot being there. I learned different things from the two companies I worked at and one was the importance of brand consistency. We keep making pixel art platformers because that’s what we know how to make and our community enjoys. It wouldn’t make sense for us to delve into something completely different like a mobile city builder game or something like that. Unless we find a large pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, in the foreseeable future we’ll keep on making these types of games. Another nice thing about working in the business a few years before venturing into your own is the friends you make. There’s a bunch of people from Image & Form and Zoink that worked with us on our Alwa games. -Which do you find more invigorating, level & game design or marketing? That’s an interesting question because I don’t really know. A big problem we have is the fact that I’m both producer, CEO, Game & Level Designer and I also run our social media. It worked well when we only had one game to work on (Alwa’s Awakening) but now we have two games we made ourselves, one we published called Cathedral and also the NES version of Alwa’s Awakening. It’s a lot of overhead just making sure all the gears in this company spins in the right direction. Hypothetically if we found a million dollars somewhere and could have more freedom I think I’d hire a biz/producer person and I’d take on a more creative director role. I like creating stuff and I draw a lot of inspiration from movies I love. For example this Summer during vacation I wrote a script for our new game and put together an ending for it and the other day I pitched it to the team and they were all really excited! Stuff like that makes me really happy! -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? We went full-time with Elden Pixels in 2018 and the year after that I became a parent for the first time so there has been a lot of life changing things occur the last couple of years, meaning I find no time to play video games or to do really anything else except take care of my family and my company. Sure, I check Twitter every now and then and I see other cool developers doing stuff but I’m so out of the loop these days. I even took a week’s vacation to play Elden Ring but the same week we moved into a new apartment so the game is still in its plastic wrap. When it comes to influences I take almost all my inspiration from the world of cinema. The game we’re currently working on draws a lot of inspiration from movies like They Live, Jacob’s Ladder, Leave No Trace and The Girl With All The Gifts. If you look closely, almost every name, achievement etc. in our previous games are references to movies. Perfect, it’s been awhile since I woke up screaming in the night -What tools do you use for your level design work? We use Tiled Map Editor to make all our levels and we've had it ever since we started making games in 2014. It's such a great tool and I just love working with it. Throughout the years we've also implemented a few middleware tools between Tiled and our game engine that really makes the process of creating a level very quick. The programmer of Tiled is also very kind and he even helped us add a few things we needed for our current game. -What to you, make for a well-designed and fun level? I love playing metroidvanias and I love exploring in video games so a good game with a nice map and something fun to explore is all I need. And also what I want to create myself. I think a lot of the games today are too big so a nice shorter experience in the region of 6-10 hours is great I think, so shorter levels that are fun to explore is my kind of thing! -What are some underappreciated strategies to marketing a game effectively? As I mentioned earlier we’re quite understaffed when it comes to marketing since I never find the time to do anything really, I really don’t know. But what I found in my eight years or so in the industry is that it really helps being a nice guy and to treat everyone with respect and kindness and always help out as much as possible. I remember sending review keys to this guy years ago when the site he worked on had little to no traffic and one time we bumped into each other and had a talk, and now years later he works at IGN. -Where did the initial idea for Alwa’s Awakening come from? I was over at a friend’s house playing video games and we played two games that stood out. One was Battle Kid, which is a NES homebrew where you go through room by room fighting enemies but what’s really cool about that game is that each room is almost like a puzzle and you have to know exactly what to do and do it precisely in the correct order to get to the next room. And the other game we played was Trine 2, which we played from start to finish in one sitting. An idea popped into my head of making a NES game that takes the quick action gameplay from Battle Kid but instead of a robot we have this cute but capable magician that explores the world like in Zelda II or The Battle Of The Olympus. An underrated gem in the series -What is the working dynamic like across the whole team at Elden Pixels generally? What was the working dynamic like in the development of bringing Alwa’s Awakening to the NES? How did you first connect with everyone? When we made the first Alwa’s Awakening for PC in 2016 it started with me writing a game design document and then looking for a team. I knew Kreese who made the music from a gaming convention we used to run together so he was on board right away. BG (Alexander) the artist actually had made some artwork for the same convention so I knew he was skilled with pixel art so I just sent him a message and he was also on board! Finding a programmer was a bit more challenging but I found Kevin who was actually a level designer but he learned to program for Alwa’s Awakening, which is really impressive! For the NES game we hired Brad Smith, who’s a skilled NES programmer and we remade the game from scratch so it would work on NES. It was a fun project! -Alwa’s Awakening was first released in 2017. What is the story behind the game’s evolution from a modern game to an NES game? The original game idea was to make a NES game but we quite quickly realized it would be one heck of a challenge so we decided to go with Unity, which is a modern game engine. And we made and released the game, but throughout development we made sure to keep the NES limitations as much as possible because who knows, maybe one day we’ll port it to NES? Well, the years passed and in 2019, a guy called Paul started to make a fan-made NES port and he came really far with the game. Since he live streamed the entire thing it caught the eye of a publisher and they reached out to us asking if we’d be interested in releasing it commercially. We were but Paul wasn’t able to commit to such a task so we put out a job ad and we messaged Brad Smith, which we knew from his previous game Lizard and after going back and forth for a while we signed a contract and he was on board! The rest is history. -With the NES iteration of Alwa’s Awakening, you’re working on a game for decades-old hardware. How does producing a game for the NES compare to your experiences producing games for more modern hardware? From my perspective as a level designer it wasn’t that different. We still used Tiled as our level editor and quite quickly when we first started working with the game we were able to just have all the original levels loaded into the game and we were able to move around. Brad wrote this really cool script that basically took everything we had in terms of levels, art and dialogue and just put it into the game and it gave a warning it it wasn’t compatible with NES so the first time we loaded everything up we had like a thousand warnings and day by day, week by week we remade the levels, edited artwork, reduced colors, edited strings until one day it had zero warnings, it was the best day! -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing Alwa’s Awakening (both initially and for the NES) as opposed to previous projects? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? Well, you’re not going to get rich making NES games. It was such a cool game to work on but if we cared more about money it would probably have been a better idea to work on something else. And with everything going on with the world right now with the pandemic, lockdowns, war in Ukraine and environmental crisis manufacturing and shipping this game around the world has cost an insane amount of money. I have to think long and carefully about doing another physical game. -There has been a lot of support and enthusiasm for Alwa’s Awakening, from the original game, to the announcement that the game would be ported to the NES, to the game’s ultimate release. How does it feel to see so many people excited for this game? It feels both great and “business as usual”. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when someone likes our games but I’m coming up on soon ten years in the business and I think almost every title I worked on has become a physical release, so you almost get used to it. But what makes me really proud and happy though, is the fact that Elden Pixels now employs three people full time. We made a lot of games that make people happy, we’ve given money to charity and can continue making quality single player video games in a gaming industry that’s evolving more and more into subscriptions, DLCs and shitty business models. The fact that we can survive and make games makes me really happy and we have our community to thank for that. -What aspects of Alwa’s Awakening are you most proud of? When we developed the original game for Steam a few years back we were really keen on making it very accurate to the NES hardware and we succeeded in that. When it came out most people were really positive but there's always a few that would comment that it "would never work on NES" and "looked too modern". But then years later we were basically able to make a 1:1 port on the NES and it worked exactly like we hoped. -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon? Any dream projects? Are there any plans to bring Alwa’s Legacy to the NES, or at least another soundtrack cartridge? Right now there are no plans to release anything more Alwa related, we’re finishing up the Alwa’s Awakening Evercade release but after that we’re planning to focus entirely on our new game, which is a platformer adventure game of sorts with a killer soundtrack. We have posted a few pics online but we’re hoping to officially announce it next year, can’t wait to hear what people think of it! -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? I got a chance to play a cyberpunk NES adventure game called Courier, which I really enjoyed. The art looked great and the hour or so I got to play was really cool, really looking forward to seeing it released! There’s also a fan-made Battle Kid game being played, which I can’t wait to get my hands on. I tried the demo and it was very well-made. SOON -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? No worries, thanks for allowing me to rant about our games. I’ve got nothing more to add really. Be kind to yourself and people around you. Thanks to everyone who enables us to keep doing what we’re doing. Brad Smith @bbbradsmith -Before we dive into Alwa’s Awakening, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a game developer and musician? What is your origin story? My family's first computer was an Atari ST. I loved a lot of games on it, especially Bubble Bobble, which I played a lot with my dad. At a young age I found at the library a series of books by Usborne on BASIC programming for kids. That's where I got started with programming. I decided I wanted to make video games then, and it's been a lifelong pursuit. Music has been my other major interest. My parents encouraged me to take piano lessons early on, but what I really wanted to do was compose music. I especially liked making music with my computer, because I didn't need to deal with instruments or performers, I could just put sounds together. It also tied in with the video games thing. I really loved game music as much as other kinds, and seemed natural to try and make music like that at the computer. The Usborne books are now available for free online, in case you're curious or want to link them: https://usborne.com/ca_en/books/computer-and-coding-books -In terms of both game development and music, who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? Some early game experiences that really influenced me: Bubble Bobble, for its unique concept and cutesy style. The original Prince of Persia, for the quiet way it lets you explore space, and its immaculate sense of presentation. Final Fantasy IV, for introducing me to the longer-form storytelling and character development of JRPGs. I try to play a variety of games, and maybe more of them are old than new. I don't know if I'm into a specific genre; I think mostly I just try to play something different than the last thing I played. Old games often have strange design decisions that are unpopular in recent games, and they give me a lot of ideas to think about. Recently I've played through Ys I, Blaster Master, and Death Stranding. Currently I'm deep into Yakuza 0 on my PS4, and slowly getting through a strange Amiga sci-fi maze game called Enemy: Tempest of Violence. I feel similarly about music. I listen to old and new things, and music is much older than video games so "old" goes back a lot farther. I liked a lot of game music, but maybe "Secret of Mana" was the most inspiring of all for me. It really made me want to write music. I heard "Switched on Bach" as a kid, and the sound of synthesizers being applied Bach was an instant hit for me. Later I found another album by Wendy Carlos called "Beauty in the Beast" which had an incredibly unique exploration of tuning systems and sounds... it gave me completely new ideas about what music could be, and it's a shame to say that it's been out of print for many years. Nine Inch Nails is another artist that meant a lot to me, especially since I knew it was mostly one guy with a computer, it encouraged me to do the same. More recently I've really enjoyed the game soundtracks of Machinarium, and CrossCode. Screenshot from Machinarium -How would you describe your design aesthetic, what to you are the hallmarks of a game made by you? So, I can't take any credit for the aesthetic of Alwa's Awakening. My work on that game was to make someone else's design into something the NES could run. I probably did have some influence on the design of the NES version, but it's more subtle. For my own NES game Lizard, I think the one thing I usually tell people is that they will get lost. I wanted to make a game that doesn't tell you where to go, so that you go explore on your own, lose your way, and then can (hopefully) have the joy of finding it. I don't think everyone likes this feature, but it's a kind of game I felt I hadn't experienced in a while. So, maybe the question of what the hallmarks of my games are is something that will have to wait many years, for me to finish several other games that we can look back on and compare. For now I'd say I want to explore game ideas that I feel are under-served. I look at old games a lot because I think there are a lot of cool concepts, and weird ideas, that are worth exploring some more in a new context. I'm interested in a lot of different game genres... but maybe I'm just mostly interested in variety. I want to make a game that I'd like, that someone else isn't going to. What that means will probably change a lot for each game, if I manage to make more. -What tools do you use to code and compose for your games? What is your creative process? For code, I use a variety of languages for different purposes. Assembly code to run on the NES. Python script or other languages for tools used in making the game. C++ for stuff on the PC that needs to run efficiently. There are differences between programming languages, but I just try to find a specific one seems good for the situation at hand. There are a lot of different assemblers, or C compilers, and there are many ways to accomplish the same task. If I need to find a different language or tool, I just try to learn whatever that is and get comfortable with it. For music, I probably do the broad level composition at a piano or guitar, or in my head, or on paper. When I have a few ideas, eventually I start to put them together in some form more specific to the end goal. For NES music I mostly use a free tool called FamiTracker. After I get the main ideas in, I need to work on the finer details, and FamiTracker has an excellent simulation of the NES sound that lets me get it right before I go to the real machine to test it out. -The list of projects you’ve worked on spans decades. Have you noticed any changes/evolutions in your style or game development preferences over the years? I started professional game development in 2006 after I graduated from university, though the projects of my own that I learned from go back many more years. At this point I really only have one major finished game that is my own, which is Lizard. The rest which has been published is work done for others. The things I wanted to make as a kid are pretty different than what I want now. As a kid, I wanted to make a game that simulated my own life, the daily activities of a young schoolboy. As a teenager, I wanted to make a JRPG, and I dreamed of working for the short-lived SquareSoft USA. In university I wanted to make a rhythm/music shoot-em-up. There were projects for each of these that got to various stages of development, but the only games I finished were small things, like pong or bowling. It took me a very long time to learn how to commit to a big project and finish it, which in a lot of ways is its own separate skill, different from other things I had to learn to be able to make a video game. -How did you come into the role of working on Alwa’s Awakening as lead programmer? What was the working dynamic like in the game’s development? The people at Elden Pixels had played Lizard, so they had seen some of my work. They approached me when they were looking to start this project, and I guess they liked the plan I laid out for them. I worked from my home in Canada, and we talked continually as development progressed. In the early part of the project, I focused on getting tools ready for the other team members to make content and be able to test it on the NES. The first major thing was a tool that built the game maps and could view them on the NES. As they were working on building the world map, I could focus on the next thing, like making sprites and animations possible. Later in the project I think the others were working a lot on testing and tweaking things, while I was trying to get all the remaining small features in, or fix problems as they came up. As with any project we sometimes had worries and disagreements, but I very much enjoyed working with them, and I'd like to do it again if another opportunity comes up. If you made a world as stunning as this, who wouldn’t hire you? -Did you have a different attitude toward developing Alwa’s Awakening compared to developing your own games, such as Lizard? Is the experience of developing them different? Does making a port of an existing game impose limits on what you can do with it? Was the experience analogous to your work on MOON8 in which you brought Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon to the NES? With Lizard, I could spend as much or as little time as I thought any part of the game needed. The decision was always mine. With Alwa's Awakening, I had to continually estimate various things that could be done, and let my employer decide what was important. So... it's a lot different in that way. I'm not free to explore tangents the way I would on my own project. I wouldn't say MOON8 was very much like either of those projects. Mostly it began as listening to the music and transcribing it into FamiTracker. I did a lot of music transcriptions over the years, either so I could play something myself on the piano or guitar, or if a band I was in wanted to play some covers. I like rearranging music like this, transforming it into a different sound for different instruments. So for MOON8, it was all about exploring how different it would sound if it had to be played through the NES as an instrument. With Alwa's Awakening, instead my main goal was just to make it as close to the original PC version as the NES could manage. Instead of exploring the difference, I was trying to create a meticulous facsimile. We did of course have to make some adaptations for the NES, but we still wanted it to feel like the "same" game. A lot of the more significant ways it had to be adapted, e.g. simplifying the sprite colours, or rebuilding the world for the 4:3 aspect ratio of the screen, were creative decisions made by other members of the team. A link to one of my first solo guitar transcriptions, the underwater music from Super Mario Bros.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cV7C2wDs9B8 -There has been a lot of support and enthusiasm for Alwa’s Awakening, from the initial announcement that the game would be ported to the NES, to the news you were taking over as lead programmer, to the game’s ultimate release. How does it feel to see so many people excited for this game and your work on it? It's been a huge relief to see people finally get their hands on it. The physical release took a lot longer than expected, and though my work was long finished, the wait for a release still weighed on me a lot. I felt we had done great work with it, and I was really looking forward to seeing how people felt about it. -What aspects of Alwa’s Awakening are you most proud of? I was really surprised how I felt about the game as it was coming together. I'd figured by now the novelty of getting something to run on the NES would have worn off on me... but as it became more and more complete, and I could sit down and just play it. There's still magic there. Something special about having it run on the real machine. I'm very happy with how it turned out. I think we captured everything essential about the original. Maybe I'm most proud of the animation system, which let us keep the entire animation set of the main character. I don't think we had to sacrifice even a single pixel on her. -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, NES or otherwise? Any dream projects? Collaborations? I don't have any concrete things that I can talk about right now, but I am working on things. In the past months I've been spending a lot of time getting to know the Apple II, and the Super NES. You can expect stuff from me on both those platforms in the future. I'm not quite sure what they will be yet. For now I've released a few small demos, experiments, and ROM hacks for SNES. -Will there be a cartridge release of Famicompo Pico 2 like there was for its predecessor? Probably not. I made the ROM for it, but the physical release isn't my project. Given how many years have passed now, I don't know if Famicompo Pico has a current custodian who would make a cartridge happen. I'd like to make a ROM for Famicompo Pico 3, at least, which has been in my plans for a very long time, but I will need to set aside some time for it. The Famicompo Pico 2014 ALBUM by the bitpuritans, still available at InfiniteNESLives -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? A few months ago I really enjoyed playing through Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl with a friend. I thought it played very well, and it was longer than I expected. Really fantastic game. Another recent one I liked a lot was Witch n' Wiz, which is a very pleasant puzzle game, and it had some great attention to style and detail. As for stuff that's currently in development... I think I try not to get my hopes up about games that aren't already out. I've seen a lot of great ideas get started, and then disappear. I don't consider it a fault, and my own life has been littered with unfinished projects, so I definitely understand, but I've developed a bit of a callous toward it. I sometimes test in-progress things for friends, and I try to help and encourage people that are working on stuff, but I don't have any expectation that any particular game will make it to release. This applies to big budget games too: I've seen firsthand how frequently these get cancelled well into development. -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? Thanks for being interested enough to ask. I don't have anything to add right now, but I guess anyone wondering what else I have to say might go to my website, or maybe look me up on twitter. https://rainwarrior.ca/ Conclusion: Thanks for tuning in to this latest episode of the series that explores the new and exciting goings on in the homebrew community. What are your thoughts on Alwa’s Awakening and its developers? What homebrews are you eagerly looking forward to? Perhaps you’ll see it here soon when…A Homebrew Draws Near! Command?
  9. Did you notice that all Nintendo systems coming after the N64 have their own version of Super Smash Bros? It is a shame that this (wonderful) experience is not ported to earlier systems! Super Tilt Bro. for NES is my humble attempt at filling this void. It adapts this fun and nervous gameplay to the NES and its eight buttons controller. You can freely download the ROM, play in a browser or hack the source. It now has an ONLINE mode! Short story: Wi-Fi chipset in the cart. Long story: here. Wishlist the physical release. To find an online opponent, join the discord. Here is the trailer: In this topic there will be different kinds of updates: Technical highlights: small articles about technical challenges of developing Super Tilt Bro. and how they are solved. Patch notes: when the game receives an update, details are available right here. News: Less often, I may announce something big (like a new physical edition)
  10. I'd like to share the game I'm working on: Skatemasta - Tcheco for the NES! It's a game from my talented friend Marcelo Barbosa a.k.a Macbee. The game is a fast paced side-scrolling, inspired by games such as Yo! Noid and Adventure Island. You can try it right now https://parisoft.itch.io/skatemasta
  11. I think I never talked about that project on the forum (I shared a lot about it on Twitter and Instagram)... The future game from SJ Games (my almost 10 year old son), after his previous KUBO games. STORY: SkateCat is a platformer game in which you play as a skate cat who must face different demons that have invaded the world. The game will feature several levels in different universes and as many bosses. Seiji (SJ Games) is working hard on it, during some weekend/holidays. He hopes to finish the game by the end of the year, we might release a physical edition (late 2022 or early 2023). But we'll see, I want him to have fun making it (with his current passions about cats and skateboarding). -> Get the demo here: https://dale-coop.itch.io/skatecat-sj-games-nes CREDITS: Created by SJ Games (story, gfx, chara design, level design) NESmaker software (by Joe Granato / The New 8bit Heroes). Custom code and debug by me (@dale_coop). Music and sfx by my best buddy @Raftronaut. FOLLOW THE PROJECT: https://twitter.com/dale_coop https://www.instagram.com/sj_games_seiji/ (prototype cart, the final cart might not have that label art)
  12. GET THE PODCAST HERE: https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/raLhXB7qJsb Conor and Nick discuss Ruby & Rusty Save the Crows, a charming platformer for the Game Boy Color that may or may not concern workplace discrimination and chronically traumatized birds (it doesn’t). Get the full game here: https://www.bitmapsoft.co.uk/product/ruby-rusty-save-the-crows/ Play the demo here: https://maxoakland.itch.io/ruby-rusty-save-the-crows Max Oakland on Twitter: https://twitter.com/WinkWinkerson The next game club pick is Alfonzo’s Arctic Adventure. Get it here: https://www.spoonybard.ca/nes-games/alfonzos-arctic-adventure As always, find links to our social media and more at: http://homebrewgameclub.com
  13. A Homebrew Draws Near! A blog series by @Scrobins Episode 24: Super Tilt Bro. Introduction: Homebrew first caught my eye when I sought to build out my game collection and I discovered new games for old consoles. Some games that stood out reinvented accessories like Super Russian Roulette’s use of the Zapper and Tailgate Party’s use of the Power Pad, while others applied modern gaming ideas to the old hardware like Candelabra: Estocerro and Spook-o’-tron’s use of both NES controllers in a way that mimics the Wii’s nunchuck dual joysticks. In this spirit homebrew continually evolves, and sometimes that growth breaks through a once-impossible barrier. The nights of couch co-op gameplay grow longer as the next must-have homebrew comes in riding a technological leap that could only have come from the creative wizardry of this community. And yet more than anything else, all you can do is wonder what might come next along the path laid here. For this entry, I’m covering Super Tilt Bro. and the Rainbow Wi-Fi chipset, a fighting game for the NES developed by Sylvain Gadrat and going global with Wi-Fi-enhanced NES power thanks to the mad science of Antoine Gohin of Broke Studio fame. As of the time of this writing, the development of the game and the chipset continues in earnest, but the current build of the game is available to play here with the capabilities to play others elsewhere in the world. In the meantime, VGS recently hosted a Super Tilt Bro. tournament last month. I certainly got my butt handed to me, but if you start practicing next year and hound the staff, we might do it again next year! Development Team: @RogerBidon (Sylvain Gadrat): developer (Super Tilt Bro.) @Broke Studio (Antoine Gohin): publisher (Super Tilt Bro.) & developer (Rainbow Wi-Fi chipset) Cart and Instructions from initial sale Game Evolution: Super Tilt Bro.’s origins track all the back to the era of Nintendo Age. Sylvain first created a thread for the game on NESDev on December 29, 2016 as his entry in the 2016 NESDev Competition. Described as a demake of the Super Smash Bros. series with the goal of being accessible, yet something to master, Sylvain noted he had been working on the game since the previous April. Following the competition, Sylvain created a thread on NintendoAge about the game’s continuing development on May 15, 2018. Copies of the existing build were sold on cartridges to excited fans. The development thread continued to Video Game Sage on October 31, 2019, but its association with the Rainbow Wi-Fi cart in development from Broke Studio first appeared on VGS on March 18, 2020 in its own dedicated thread. Something especially notable about Sylvain’s posts is the abundant sharing of his programming notes, offering an educational resource alongside his development updates. Screenshot from Super Tilt Bro.’s entry in the 2016 NESDev Compo Gameplay Overview: Super Tilt Bro. describes itself as a versus platformer or brawler, channeling the Super Smash Bros. entries of more modern consoles. You have your choice of characters: Sinbad, the scimitar-wielding, high-jumping, nimble one; Kiki, the slower, but stronger squirrel who can draw new platforms; Pepper, the versatile, teleporting witch; and what’s this…a new challenger approaches…VGS’s own mascot, The Sage, a heavy fighter who wields a long staff. Play against the computer, a friend, or see what you draw in the game’s online mode, duking it out across a host of arenas. The development of the characters reflects Sylvain’s love for the open-source community, with Sinbad drawn by Zi Ye and popularized in Ogre3D; Tyson Tan’s Kiki the Cyber Squirrel, famed as the mascot to KDE’s Krita; and Pepper from David Revoy’s Pepper&Carrot comics. Definitely check out this witchin’ comic Controls are simple, but there’s nuance and fast finger work to be mastered. Left and right on the d-pad move you accordingly, while up makes you jump, and down creates a shield. The A-button is your normal attack, and the B-button unleashes your character’s special moves. Writer’s Review: Super Tilt Bro. is a fighting game that manages to be a fun NES game and yet somehow doesn’t feel like an NES game. Controls and movement are so fluid, and the sprite animation is so detailed that the game could be mistaken for an “8-bit inspired” game taking advantage of more modern tech, but no, Super Tilt Bro. is built faithfully within the NES’ limits. I’m not averse to crediting some of this to sheer black magic. Focused on doing a few things incredibly well, this game highlights where homebrew outshines the licensed era with its labor of love development, progressing at its own pace rather than some artificial corporate calendar. Gameplay is fun, and the various playable fighters have very different stats and skills. There is enough familiarity inspired from a similar famed franchise to orient you to the basic mechanics of Super Tilt Bro., which is good because the fights move so quickly that you won’t have more than a moment to get your bearings before crossing swords. And getting your bearings is important. At the moment there isn’t an easy way to identify which player you are in online mode, so it is conceivable you sacrifice a life thinking you are a different player than you actually are, and accidentally walk yourself right off the edge of the stage (cough, cough, Deadeye). Between standard attacks, combos, jumping, shielding, and whatever you call the sorcery some players summon to recover from going over the cliff, there is a lot to do that makes this game a fast-paced frenzy that will pull you into the screen with intense concentration. Despite all that I’m still laughably terrible at this game, getting my butt whooped over and over during VGS’ recent tournament. Whatever, it’s not losing if you’re having fun, right? RIGHT?!? The graphics are colorful and detailed despite their small size, which serves to make the arena as large as possible, which are themselves scenic delights (at least before blood is spilt). Each of every sprite’s pixels are functional, with smooth animations such that you are never at a loss to understand what is happening during the fight. Meanwhile the music carries an addictive, pretty intensity that communicates a fierce battle is at hand, but it’s with cute characters so it’s actually charming instead of gruesome, and therefore it’s all ok (though the 8-bit gladiators may disagree). Interviews: For the dual stories behind Super Tilt Bro. and the Rainbow Wi-Fi chipset and the dream of bringing them together, I talked to the developers of both… @RogerBidon -Before we dive into Super Tilt Bro., I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrewer? What is your origin story? Computers always have been a part of my life. Here is a photograph before I even had a beard! My dad always has been into computers and programming. Being always around him to ask what he was doing, he showed me the Pascal programming language. I was more than enthusiastic! I rapidly got the bug, and figured I could dive in the family's library. There were two books of interest: a Pascal manual, and an assembly one. I learned Pascal reading the first manual, and reprogramming assembly examples in Pascal. As a teenager I knew enough to make small windowed applications, be it fun little tools to help with homework, small games to play with friends, or "virus" to display dumb error messages on professor's screen. I rapidly knew that I wanted to pursue programming studies, which I did, studying mostly algorithmic, software engineering, and C++. On the side of my studies, I discovered Linux and the free culture. The idea that software should be free to share, study, and improve greatly resonated in me. I am now convinced that sharing the software we write is the good move. Trying to "protect" it wastes time and forbids people to come to help but does not prevent plagiarism. There is a reason Blender took over 3DSmax, OBS took over XSplit, ... This software allows their users to contribute in the most direct way. With my degree in C++, and good knowledge of Linux, I easily found a job in the Video over IP industry. I developed server software that serves television, and video on demand. Typically, the servers behind the TV offer of internet providers or the web VOD of TV channels. I worked 11 years full time on this industry, and now ... here I am! Since January 1, 2021, I changed my status to work freelance. I take contracts in the Video over IP industry to pay rent, while saving most of my time to work on Super Tilt Bro. I am not sure how much time it will last, but 2021 is definitely the homebrewing year. Of course, I began homebrewing before leaving my salary for that. It actually came by itself. When I found my childhood NES dormant in a storeroom, I couldn't resist the urge to try to program something on it. It began by going on Wikipedia to learn that the CPU was a 6502, I then learned the basics of the 6502's assembly, and finally found the incredible resources that are the NESDev wiki and forums. With this newly acquired basic knowledge, I wanted a big project. Something to learn. Something that I would not finish, just leave when it would bore me or when I would have nothing more to learn. Spoiler: developing on the NES is not boring, and there is always something to learn! It's been five years, and there is no plan to stop soon. -Your name is Sylvain, but your online presence revolves around the name Roger Bidon. What is the significance of that name? Haha! You know, online games tend to give you small rewards for following them on social media. New colors for your characters, small in-game money, things like that. "Roger Bidon", which in French means "Roger Fake", was a fake Twitter account I created to "follow" a game. The thing, is that one day I really needed a Twitter account, and the platform wouldn't let me create a new one ... "Roger Bidon" is my screen name since that day -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? In the programming world, my first passion, there are so many people. Mike Acton, Jason Turner, Herb Sutter, and Glenn Fiedler are some of the stars. The truth also is that a lot of great essays simply come from anonymous blog authors. Mike Acton Of course, working on a platform-fighter game for years, I went deep in the genre. Super Tilt Bro. draws mechanics and inspiration from Super Smash Bros., Rivals of Aether, Brawlout, and Brawlhalla. Also, reading articles or watching talks from game designers as I found them, but I would have no specific name, just watching what's hot at the moment. I try to focus on game designers working on current games though. I view Super Tilt Bro. as a modern game on an old system, and so it should follow modern game-design concepts. Finally, there is not only gameplay anymore. Super Tilt Bro. is a game, a network of servers, a website, and a community. Thanks to online connectivity everything is linked together. There, other online games are the best inspiration. For example, the "private" game mode, to play with friends without lobby, directly comes from Antihero, full leaderboard on the website is what Starcraft II and League of Legends do, physical edition "whishlist" is obviously derived from Steam's concept, ... -How would you describe your design aesthetic, what to you are the hallmarks of a game made by you? Knowing there is only one (non-game jam) game by me, it may be extrapolating a little bit. A friend of mine once said, "the game is like you, real technical skill in a facetious package." As a programmer-first, I love to write original code and I naively go head-first in the most feared challenges. "8-bit rollback netcode? Sure, couldn’t be THAT hard!" That's, for me, the best way to learn. On the other side, when I make a game, I don't want it to be a technical demo. I avoid, for example, to market the game as "written in assembly", it is true, it impresses people but is actually of no value for the player. All things considered, I'd say a game by Roger Bidon has a highly technical code base but tries to be a good game first. That said, I am without doubt better at programming than any other game-making skill. -What tools do you use to code and create? My workstation is a Linux PC, with VIM as text editor, and The Gimp for pixel art. Nothing fancy here, your typical open-source workstation, except for The Gimp which is a bit outdated, this choice is just because habits are hard to change. My main emulator is FCEUX, with Mesen as a backup when its fancy tools are needed. Nowadays, people tend to prefer Mesen but I had to patch the emulator to support the Wi-Fi mapper by Broke Studio, and FCEUX happens to be easier to hack into (it is fully developed in C++ instead of a mix of C++ and C#.) FCEUX also is the base of the HTML5 emulator, that eases maintaining Wi-Fi patch on both. Also, FCEUX development is steady while Mesen needs a new champion. Of course there are a lot of home-made helper scripts. Be it debug/profiling scripts for the emulators, or scripts that convert images to assembly code. I also use The Gimp as a character editor, by respecting some layer-naming convention I store all my animations in a graphic file and convert them at build time. Language-wise, the game was originally fully written in assembly, I then integrated C parts for the menus. The C is compiled with 6502-gcc which is a bit tricky to setup but gives largely better results than the common cc65. The assembler used is xa6502, it is an older assembler than ca65 and is more direct: there is no linking, binary code is directly output, meaning that it can directly output NES ROM files (or anything else really) by itself. Finally, the server is developed in C++. It notably integrates a 6502 CPU emulator to be able to run the same game logic as the NES, and output savestates. It is used to help the NES with the rollback netcode, and since recently to produce replay files of games played online. Whoops, it is quite a lot of tools-listing here. The main takes are that I use very little common tools (no NES Screen Tool, nor ca65 for example), and a lot of weird choices. Why? Mainly, because they are fun to work with -Super Tilt Bro. debuted as an entry in the 2016 NESDev Coding Competition. What inspired you to participate that year? Do you plan on creating something again in the future once you’ve finished Super Tilt Bro.? In 2016, I was a complete tourist in the NESDev community. Even retro gaming was new to me, as I started programming on the NES before falling in love with retro gaming. So, I just discovered the scene and saw there was a NESDev compo, I asked myself "why not register?" I happened to start development at a good time to be eligible. And I regret nothing, it was a very nice introduction to the community: having something to show while watching the work of more qualified devs, it was really a nice experience! Participating in another iteration of the NESDev compo after Super Tilt Bro. is finished always has been in the plans! Sadly, Super Tilt Bro. is not made to be finished one day. There is always something to improve, to work upon. I'll have to plan to allow myself some time to participate in another edition, without abandoning my main project. -When you created a thread on NintendoAge for Super Tilt Bro. in May 2018, you noted your desire to create an iteration of the Super Smash Bros. genre for the NES. What about that series resonates so strongly with you? We played Super Smash Bros. for hours every day with my brother. When we were bored, we played. When we had something to celebrate, we played. When sad, nothing like a game to feel better. Disagreeing? Let's settle it in a game! ... Super Smash Bros. saw us grow-up. Adding this to the fact that it is a genre mostly absent from the NES, it was the perfect project to work on. Super Smash Bros. for the 64, where dreams began and childhoods ended -Interest was so strong on NintendoAge and at gaming conventions that you released a small run of cartridges of Super Tilt Bro. version 1.0 (approximately 59). Was this version different from the game found on Action 53, Volume 3, which published entries from the 2016 NESDev Coding Competition? The full history is that there was the version for the competition, the one on the Action 53, Volume 3. Later, in October 2018 the 1.0 was burnt on nine cartridges intended to be sold at retro gaming events as a humble curiosity. The interest surprised me, so I asked publicly and discovered that 50 more carts were needed to satisfy everybody. This second batch actually had the version 1.1 which slightly improved NTSC compatibility. Since then, I am working on the version 2 with intermediate versions being released digitally only (for free). The compo version was terribly incomplete. Did you know that it was ranked just before the last place in the compo? The last place was for a game that did not had sound ... In Super Tilt Bro. I rushed sound integration at the very end of the deadline ^_^' The IA present on the Action 53, Volume 3 was also a post-competition addition, before that it was exclusively a two-player game. From memory, notable additions between the Action 53, Volume 3, and Super Tilt Bro. 1.0 are a better IA, with difficulty setting, four stages instead of one, and the possibility to choose your character's colors. The version 1.1 was also re-published as part of the Action 53, Volume 4. So it can easily be compared. Gikkman did exactly that at the beginning of this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PH30VykY3Ow Fun fact that I don't know if it is documented anywhere: cartridge version 1.0 was translated in French, and for 1.1 some are in French others in English, depending on who ordered it. -What went through your mind seeing people so many excited to play Super Tilt Bro. that they were asking for a version 1.0 cart release while you were still working on the game? Actually, I thought I was done with the game when preparing the 1.0 release. It was a fun experiment, I was releasing the game I had in mind, and having fun playing it. But, in the middle of releasing it, Broke Studio revealed plans to bring Wi-Fi connectivity for the NES. This completely changed my mind. Going on the internet with the NES was a thing I dreamed of back in the time. I had to be involved! "Super Tilt Bro. online" was now bound to happen. -Those cartridges have become collector’s items. One recently appeared as a donation to Kevin Hanley’s NES Spectrum Marathon as part of a raffle prize. Do you think you might ever make more to whet fans’ appetites while development continues? Oh! I just learned about Super Tilt Bro. being in a prize pack of the marathon by reading the question ^_^' That's neat! Speaking of which, this year’s marathon is coming soon on September 16-18! I won't produce more version 1 cartridges by myself. Firstly because many are waiting for the Wi-Fi cartridges, I cannot produce other carts without causing some serious misunderstanding. Some may be lured, expecting the Wi-Fi cartridge and feel let down when receiving an old version of the game. Also version 2 is far superior in all matters, if new cart had to be released I would encourage going with the version being developed. That said, if you really want a version 1 cartridge, it is possible. It always has been, and will always be. It takes some efforts that I am no more disposed to do myself, but you can re-build the ROM from the source code, flash it on carts, print labels and manuals. I even published a Super Tilt Bro. do it yourself guide (in French only, sorry) here: http://www.yaronet.com/topics/188767-devlog-super-tilt-bro/2#post-43 That's the whole point of the free and open-source culture: as an author I am not here to prevent usage, or own the game. I am producing this game to be enjoyed however you want, and explicitly not limiting its usage to what I have in mind. -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing Super Tilt Bro.? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? Do not follow my footsteps, create your own! I did absolutely everything that is recommended beginners avoid in game development. On any gamedev community, we say again and again: begin with a small project, put deadlines, finish your game, have a budget, publish small games before starting anything serious, and most importantly, we insist, really, DO NOT QUIT YOUR JOB! All these are wise recommendations, really. I did not follow them because I have safety nets, and life is too short to miss the opportunity to work on such a dream project. The thing is coding day and night is my conception of fun, certainly not yours, and this project is my own dream. So, really, do not follow my footsteps. The one thing important in game development is to have fun. That's the whole point of this industry, right? So, find what is fun to you! (And setup safety nets when it is risky.) The major lesson learned is that developing a game is far more than coding it. Graphics, sound, game design, marketing, community management, publishing, manufacturing, developing tools, and there are more on the list! All these take very different skills, going solo-dev you will inevitably have to learn some. That's cool, the work is multifaceted, just don't think you will be improving your game 100% of the time, and do not underestimate the task. The big surprise that I'd never thought when I started hacking in assembly, is that it would push me to meet formidable people. Going to game events with something to show, it is unavoidable to meet a lot of passionate people and make some friends. -I always ask my interviewees whether there is a reflection of themselves in the game’s protagonist or other characters, do you identify with any of them? Sinbad, Kiki, and Pepper are all also characters from open-source graphical software. Is that in tribute to their creators’ efforts to help other artists develop? What made these three characters stand out so much that you included them in Super Tilt Bro.? Licenses are important to me. I am convinced that open-source licenses are superior but the point is freedom. If some entity puts restrictive license on their creation, that's in their full right. This messages me that I am not allowed to work on their creation. Nintendo is notably vocal about not appreciating infringement. With that in mind, I could not use their characters in an homage-game, that would make no sense if they took it as an insult. Starting an open-source game, being sold to the open-source culture, what made sense was to create a game starring open-source mascots! The first one was Sinbad. Here the choice is purely practical: Sinbad is badass and wears scimitars; he is perfect for a fighting game. He is also very simple, green torso, white pants: perfect for the limited NES' palette! When adding new characters, I searched for mascots with a strong personality as they are inherently more interesting. Who wants to play a sitting penguin? Bonus points if the project deserves more awareness, if the character balances protagonists' genders and is appropriate for a playstyle I want to add to the game. Kiki and Pepper checked all the marks Kiki, Krita’s lovable mascot who is bolstering homebrew’s robust squirrel community These characters are completely a reflection of my view of the world while being a tribute to their respective authors. Now that I am more involved than ever in homebrews, who can say, maybe a homebrew character will join the roster one day. -How did you first connect with Broke Studio to work together on a Wi-Fi-enabled Super Tilt Bro. cartridge that would connect players over vast distances? As soon as I heard of Wi-Fi for the NES, I wanted that for Super Tilt Bro. I immediately patched an emulator with my ideal view of how it would work, coded a minimal server, implemented a naive netcode in the game, just to see if it would work. And it worked! Limited to the local network, and full of glitches, but with unlimited potential! I do not remember how I contacted him but from that point we worked in a joint effort to make it a reality. In the early days Broke Studio invited me to join a chat room about internet on the NES, with very notable members of the community. I was humbled, I just found the gurus of the internet, and by some miracle was part of the group! -What was the working dynamic like in your collaboration with him? I am implementing a game with strict requirements, and he is developing a cartridge that must fit the most possible uses. Our projects are mutually beneficial. Also, thanks to my career in Video over IP, I bring experience of network protocols while he teaches me the realities of electronics. When any of us needs something from the other or has progress to share we simply contact online. No real formality or precises dynamic, depending on the subject it can be a simple discussion or we can remotely work together for days. -What is the reaction at game events when people try your game and experience a Wi-Fi chipset working on an NES? The pandemic hit at exactly the wrong time for showing progress on Wi-Fi at events. Luckily, as I answer your question, I am back from the first event where I was able to show two networked NESs. There are two kinds of audiences: some come for the game itself and play it, with the network being a fun little fact. Others come for the Wi-Fi demo and are completely blown away to see it running really smoothly (when it does not crash ... there is still some work ) That's stunning to be animating such a stand, as both reactions are heartwarming. People that come to play have fun with the game, which is the most authentic compliment I can receive. Those that are interested by the Wi-Fi have tons of questions and want to know everything, which is touching praise -There has been a lot of support and enthusiasm for Super Tilt Bro., thanks to your hype-building on social media. How does it feel to see so many people foaming at the mouth to play your game? It is incredible to see. The big event was the release of the trailer, with my little following I was not prepared to see it going viral. I actually posted it and gone to the grocery. When I returned, thinking it would gather something like 20 likes, I received one message from a friend: "Damn, your twitter!", the trailer already gathered ten thousand views! I was like: I need to park my car before the heart attack! That's definitely something to live. Day to day reality is quieter though, it boosted my Twitter account and helped to get attention of the first community members, but the hype around the game shows indirectly. Great feeling when you present your game to somebody, and the person already heard about it! What is really heart-warming though is to hear of people actually playing the game. When a review appears saying that a group of friends plays once a week, or when two players get excited when disputing a tournament match on Discord. Each time, that makes my day! -You mention in your press kit that the game engine has a WTFPL license, which is France’s closest equivalent to releasing it into the public domain, so others can do what they want with it. Do you have any secret, specific hopes what some will use your engine to create? I just do not want to limit creativity of anybody. Super Tilt Bro. is made for the community and to bring joy, not to be mine. I openly hope that this codebase helps someone out there one day. Special gratification points if it is for technical reason, like the 8-bit netcode -What about Super Tilt Bro. are you most proud of? Succeeding in making a game that people actually play. Making a game is easy, making a fun game is doable, making a game that people are willing to spend more than a handful of minutes on is surprisingly hard. There are always much better alternatives to your game, and people's time is precious. -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, NES or otherwise? Any dream projects? Dream project: Super Tilt Bro. Thanks to self-updatable Wi-Fi cartridges, the physical release does not necessarily signal the end of development. The crazy dream would be to gain enough following to start a Patreon for continued development. That would make Super Tilt Bro. a living game, evolving as time passes. -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? Anything from Morphcat games is always a gem! Can't wait to put my hand on Witch n' Wiz also. They do seem to be up to something lately… -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? Have fun, play your games, and tell the creators that you played. They love to hear it! @Broke_Studio -Before we dive into the Rainbow Wi-Fi chipset cartridge and Super Tilt Bro., I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrewer and publisher/distributor? What is the origin story of Broke Studio? This is a fun story. My father, who is an electronic engineer now retired, started to work on a project to automate and remotely control his house heating system. A few years ago, I was staying with them and asked him about how the project was going and what was new since last time. The more I asked about it the more I was interested in it, to the point where I ended up participating in the project and learned how to program a microcontroller and work with hardware stuff. I have a classic web programming (PHP/SQL/HTML/CSS) background so that was quite different! Once the project was over (~mid 2015), I wanted to extend the experience and apply it to video games. So I looked for an old system that would be great to work with (even if they’re really all interesting!). On one side, I grew up with an Amstrad CPC 464 at home and I have a lot of great memories with it (I learned how to code in Basic with it). On the other side, I have great memories playing the NES at a friend’s house. After looking for some information on both systems on the Internet, I discovered the NESDev website, NintendoAge website, and the wonderful community around the NES, and I decided that I’d try to make something for the NES. I slowly learned how to code for the system using 6502 assembly and made small projects. One of them was Pair the Pets, my first real game, even if it’s a very simple one. I released it in July 2015. I also learned more complex things like scrolling (including multi directional scrolling), scanline IRQ, bankswitching etc. Shot of screen of Pair the Pets At the end of 2016, someone on the NESDev forums was looking for a dev that could code a Super Mario-like platformer for a very specific project. I asked for more details and learned that the project wasn’t 100% sure and that the timing to do it was very short. I started working on a simple platformer prototype to save some time, using Twin Dragons assets from Surt. In the end, the project didn’t make it, but I ended up with a platformer prototype, so my time wasn’t wasted after all. That’s when I remembered that the 2016 NESDev Compo was still running and ended 2 months later, so I thought I’d participate with the prototype. Of course I needed to improve it, polish it, and most of all, finish in time. Such a challenge… Anyway I worked hard on this Twin Dragons/platformer prototype, my friend Martin helped me with some pixel art additions, and my other friend Matthieu from the brilliant chiptune band Please Lose Battle composed some music and sound effects. We submitted the entry in time and finally discovered a month later that Twin Dragons’ demo won the 2016 NESDev Compo. If I am honest, I knew I had a good shot at it, but I didn’t think I could win, there were very strong contenders (I’m looking at you Nebs ’n Debs!). Screenshot from Twin Dragons demo in the 2016 NESDev Compo Winning the competition was very exciting, and I didn't want to stop here. So I convinced Martin and Matthieu to work with me on a full version of Twin Dragons and we launched a Kickstarter campaign for it in May 2017. This was meant to finance the cartridge production because I wanted to make the game no matter what. A bit less than a year later, the game was ready, I had all the cartridges on hand ready to be shipped, but I also was in the middle of redoing the house we had just bought with my girlfriend. So my parents came to help, my father with some house work, and my mother prepared the packages for the backers. After that, I was so thrilled by the experience, I thought that it could be nice to offer to help other developers releasing their game, and that’s really how Broke Studio began, besides releasing Twin Dragons. And then Micro Mages joined the party, then Nebs ‘n Debs, then Lizard etc. I’m so happy to work with so many talented devs/people. It may sound a bit naive/idealistic/demagogic/you-name-it, but that’s really how I feel about this adventure. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? Tough question, there are so many great and talented folks in the NESDev community. At the very beginning I discovered Kevin (KHAN Games), Vectrex28 (FG Software), Beau (Sole Goose Productions) miau6502 & Nicolas Betoux (Morphcat Games), and many others and they were all an inspiration. A lot of great folks joined the community since and unfortunately I struggle to find enough time keeping up with all the NESDev news and the work I have with Broke Studio, so I won’t try to name anyone, but I’m very happy that the community keeps on growing! -You burst onto the homebrew scene with Twin Dragons, which won the 2016 NESDev Coding Competition, and have since worked on an array of homebrew games. How would you describe your aesthetic? Twin Dragons was really my very first real video game, the idea with it wasn’t to try anything new but rather do something very classic, straightforward, and easy to apprehend. I’m not a good gamer so I wanted a game that anyone could play (well at least the first levels O:). So no specific aesthetic here, at least nothing I’m aware of, just the pleasure of doing a project I would enjoy as a gamer. I have some ideas for new games, I just need to find time to make them... -What tools do you use to code and create? I use Visual Studio Code to write code, the CC65 suite to compile it and FCEUX or Mesen to test it. I also use Shiru’s tools, NES Screen Tool and NES Space Checker. I used Tiled to create Twin Dragons and Basse Def Adventures levels and custom tools to convert them to data usable by my code. I don’t compose music/SFX myself, but the artists I worked with usually use FamiTracker or FamiStudio, both great tools with great communities. All of these tools are available for free and most of them have been released by the community which is awesome, I cannot be grateful enough for this. -Another fascinating aspect of Broke Studio is that you are involved with homebrew games across multiple consoles. What has led you to transcend consoles when many others prefer to stick to one in particular? Curiosity I guess Famicom was a logical step from the NES for me because the game code remains the same (with sometimes an additional Japanese translation). I love adding new consoles to the catalog and discover how other systems work. I started working on Mega Drive/Genesis release with Arkagis Revolution when Sik was looking for a publisher. I thought it’d be fun to try to publish a Mega Drive game. That’s how it started. I’m currently trying to set up a production chain for Gameboy games. Hopefully it won’t take too long… Screenshot from Arkagis Revolution for the Sega Genesis -Do you have a favorite console you prefer to program or publish for? Of course the NES because that’s where everything started, and it’s the one I feel the most comfortable with (at least for now!) But I have to admit that I’m also attracted to other systems and hopefully one day I’ll find time to play a bit with these. -In addition to programming games, you also publish games from other developers. What services does Broke Studio advertise to potential clients? Who do you wish to attract with your services? After the release of Twin Dragons, I thought it could be interesting to offer my services to other developers since I already had a supply chain in place and some knowledge. That could be a one-off all-in-one service, from physical game production to shipping to the customers. That’s what I did for Project Blue, Flea!, Tapeworm, Turtle Paint, The Adventures of Panzer, Shera, KUBO, From Below, and others. There’s not really a minimum quantity required but I can get decent prices starting at 25/30 copies, so I think that’s pretty cool. I think this service is interesting for people who handle the funding part themselves through a crowdfunding campaign, eBay, Etsy, or whatever and don’t want to handle the physical production and shipping themselves. The other option is to add a game to Broke Studio’s catalog but I have to admit that I can be a bit picky on the game quality for this option. I try to offer a good and consistent selection of games. That may sound stupid or unfair to some people and I respect that, but that’s how it is. -Is Broke Studio hiring? Are you looking to bring on more partners, generally or with particular skills, to expand your capabilities? I’d love to, but unfortunately, I don’t have the money to hire anyone. Since this year I’ve been working with a freelance community manager because that’s something I’m really bad at doing and don’t like doing. I think that if I were to hire someone it would be a person who could handle shop orders, game assembling, customer service etc., so I can focus on creating a new game Maybe one day?! -How difficult is it managing supply chains to publish games for different consoles given the unique challenges inherent to the NES, Famicom, and Sega Genesis? It’s not always easy, especially during these times because of chip shortage, increase of shipping fees and raw material. I try to keep prices as reasonable as I can, but it’s getting harder and harder. I may have to increase the prices a bit at some point. Also, I try to offer good quality materials, so sometimes you have to pay a bit more for this. Of course I have to work with manufacturer in China for some parts, but I try to work with local suppliers or at least suppliers located in Europe as much as I can. -It seems just about every new homebrew includes an announcement that you’re the game’s publisher and distributor. How does it feel to one of the go-to people for the physical releases of homebrew games? Ahah I’m not sure that I publish every new homebrew A friend of mine (@OriginalFei on Twitter) has been into homebrew games for so many years now, and not only for the NES, so he’s helping me find new cool projects that would be nice to publish, and sometimes devs directly contact me. I really don’t feel like one of the go-to people for physical release and I feel so small compared to some other much bigger (retro) publishers, but I love what I do so I'm always flattered when a dev agrees on having their game published by Broke Studio Fei, a pretty cool dude in homebrew -What first inspired you to develop a Wi-Fi chipset that would enable Internet connectivity for the NES? My dad (again!) talked to me about this cheap Wi-Fi chip, the ESP8266. Thinking about it I thought « that could be fun to connect the NES to the internet through this thing ». I also wondered if other people had already tried something like this for the NES, I couldn’t be the first to think about this! I discovered the amazing work of Rachel Simone Weil: the ConnectedNES project. This project is so cool, it was a huge inspiration and motivation for me to make my own. I know Memblers worked on some device to connect the NES to a computer through the controller port 2 and USB, which was pretty cool too. Definitely a lot of inspiring people in the NESDev community. Rachel Simone Weil’s ConnectedNES Naturally, my first prototype was a Wi-Fi module that could be plugged into the controller port 2 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tK1qEAI-mGE) but it was very slow, and not super stable/reliable (especially when you try to get something PAL/NTSC compatible). It was early 2018. After some time, I moved on to a cart-based solution for speed and ease of use dev-wise, and the very first prototype was made around August 2018. The idea of having a game that could update itself to fix bugs or download new content to add some maps/levels/puzzles, or even offer online gaming for an old system is really exciting! -You’ve named this project “Rainbow.” What is the significance of that name for you? There are two reasons for this name. The first one is because when I was learning Verilog and was playing with my CPLD dev board, I wired it with a lot of colored floating wires as you can see in this Tweet (https://twitter.com/Broke_Studio/status/1031836021976170497), and it looked a lot like a rainbow. Second reason is because Kevin Hanley (KHAN games) is working on a game called Unicorn, which is based on an old BBS game called Legend of the Red Dragon, and therefore needs a connection to the outside world to be played online. This project would be a great opportunity to help him, and as everyone knows, unicorns love rainbows -In researching the history of Internet connectivity in console gaming, I learned about a number of projects, such as the Famicom Computer Network System, Sega Meganet, XBAND, Sega Channel, and the Teleplay Modem. Had you heard of these projects before? Did any of them serve as reference points in your work on the Rainbow Wi-Fi cartridge? I heard about some of these projects, but I had never looked more into it. I really started everything from scratch, and I was learning at the same time. That’s why the project is taking so long But today it’s pretty stable and I’m very happy with its current state. Hopefully I’ll have more dev cart ready soon for curious NESDev-ers. I can’t wait to see what people will make of this! -How did you first connect with Sylvain to work on this iteration of Super Tilt Bro.? What was the working dynamic like in your collaboration together? I heard about Sylvain from the 2016 NESDev compo (his entry was the very first version of Super Tilt Bro. at the time IIRC), and I met him for the first time in 2017 at a really cool retro event in France which is called « Retro Gaming Connexion » (or RGC for short) where he showcased his game Super Tilt Bro. Early 2018 he made a custom FCEUX version with network support to see what could be done to get Super Tilt Bro. playable online. I guess it was another motivation for me to create a device that could help. Since then we’ve been working together to improve the Rainbow mapper/protocol to be easy to use and efficient. Really happy with the result of this collaboration so far. He also helped me a lot porting the mapper to FCEUX so we can test on computer before real hardware. Since his game should be the very first one using the Rainbow mapper, the mapper and the Rainbow protocol is really tailored to its needs, but we tried to keep everything as generic as possible so it will be easy for other devs to use it for their own projects. And of course, I’m really open to feedback/remarks from new devs who want or need a new feature or something like that. -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing the Rainbow cartridge as opposed to creating a game such as Twin Dragons? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? That’s a tough one. Twin Dragons was the first real game I made, so I learned a lot of stuff (almost everything I may say) all along the way. Be it level design, assembly tricks to improve performance, but also team management since we were 3 to work on the project, find suppliers for physical production, learn how to design our own PCB... I learned a lot on every aspect. The Rainbow project is a totally different beast since it’s not a game and it’s mostly hardware oriented. It’s an all new journey here. I had to learn Verilog language which is a hardware description language to “program” those CPLD/FPGA chips we see more and more now. I had to learn how to code for the ESP8266 to make its firmware. I had to learn some hardware aspect to make everything interact correctly. I have no specific knowledge in the hardware domain so it has not always been easy, but I had people around I could count on. A huge thanks to Paul Molloy from Infinite NES Lives who gave me great advice/insights and also for his great INLretro flasher. And thanks to my dad who has helped me designed the PCB and also helped me fix some weird hardware issues I could never have figured out alone. Both projects are very different and I learned a lot with both. One of the lessons I learned is to try not to give up too soon when you face an obstacle/wall. Sometimes you really want to stop because it’s too hard, or because you think you’ll never make it anyway, and I think I proved myself wrong most (all?) of the time. It wasn’t easy that’s for sure, but it was worth it. Don’t give up and take the time you need! -As one of the few people heavily involved on both sides, which is more fun or fascinating to you: the hardware or software side of homebrew? I love both sides, I guess it depends. I’ve spent a lot of time working on hardware stuff lately, and today I really miss coding a game. But at the same time, I have other hardware ideas I want to make too. Life’s too short -With Super Tilt Bro. to demonstrate the capabilities of the Rainbow Wi-Fi cartridge, do you have any further aspirations for other games that might take advantage of the technology? I have some game ideas, but I’m not sure that I’ll be able to pull them off (at least not all of them). Making an online game requires a game server, and that’s really a daunting task depending on the kind of game you’re making. Sylvain did an outstanding work in this regard for Super Tilt Bro. Playing a real-time online game on the NES without lag. It’s just insane when you think of it! Some would even call it witchcraft! So I have ideas but who knows if I’ll ever code them… -What about the Rainbow cartridge are you most proud of? Making it work! As I mentioned above, I had to learn a lot of things to get all the pieces to work together, so there’s definitely not one thing in particular that I’m proud of. I’m proud of the project in its entirety, and most importantly to be able to offer this tool to other devs so they can make awesome projects with it! The Rainbow WI-Fi chipset -Do you have any plans to adapt the Rainbow to other consoles such as the Famicom, SNES, or Sega Genesis/Mega Drive? Yes of course, that’s a part of what I meant above about the other hardware ideas Famicom and Genesis/Mega Drive are on top of the list indeed. And of course I’d love to port it to other consoles like SNES, Gameboy, why not Neo Geo. I tried to make the protocol as agnostic of the NES as possible so it can be easily ported to other platforms. I’m pretty sure Genesis/Mega Drive will be next on the list. -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon? Any dream projects? Main project for now is having the Rainbow NES cart released and probably Super Tilt Bro. Soon after that. I have two dream projects: one would be a point and click game with a twist for the NES, and the other one would be an online game exploiting the potential of the Rainbow cart. -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? Sadly, I already have a big backlog of NES homebrews I want to play (Rollie, NEScape, Anguna, …) BUT, I’m always looking for new KHAN games releases, FrankenGraphics also works on some very interesting projects I’d love to try when they’re out, of course the next Morphcat Games hit too. Again; I can’t name everyone, there are so much cool stuff I see on Twitter! -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? Well thank YOU for your interest and for being so patient, waiting for me to answer all the questions, I’m so sorry it took SO long. Thanks to all the people who enjoy Broke Studio’s work, that means a lot to me, sorry for not naming every nice people in the NESDev community, you’re all awesome, keep on making games and don’t give up! Also, I’m always open to suggestions, comments, ideas, so feel free to send me a message if you feel you need to. Sometimes it takes time for me to reply, but I usually reply to everyone. Conclusion: Thanks for tuning in to this latest episode of the series that continues to take deep dives into promising homebrew games coming across the finish line. What are your thoughts on Super Tilt Bro., the Rainbow Wi-Fi chipset, and the talented developers revolutionizing NES homebrew? What homebrews are you eagerly looking forward to? Perhaps you’ll see it here soon when…A Homebrew Draws Near! Command?
  14. Figured I might as well start showing off my nice pickups! First up is Holly Jolly NES Mix, a Christmas music cart. Been looking for awhile and going to enjoy it for many holidays to come. Thanks @MattyB !
  15. Tournament dates: July22-24 2022! Hey Sages, It's been a bit since we had any kind of event on VGS, so why not kick it off with a bang! We have been chatting with the creator of Super Tilt Bro. and the publisher @Broke Studio about a way to promote his game and tie it into something we could collaborate on! Lo and behold, a tournament for the ages! What is this and why should I care? What this is: We at VGS care about the community, and sometimes that means giving back and collaborating with developers. By that we mean, we care about growing our community and supporting others! We are looking to get the word out about this game as it shows some very nice potential to be the next Smash bros.......ok maybe not, but its cool that you can play a nes fighter online right? Why you should care: Prizes of course! Prizes to be offered: We have a plethora of prizes being offered! @Broke Studio has offered up a CIB copy of Super Tilt Bro. with a gold shell to add to the prize pool for the top 3. Need this for your homebrew collection? Then you better be top 3, and first to choose the winning prize!!!! If not there will be a run of this game, so don't worry if you aren't that great! @RogerBidon will be offering a set of 3 plushies of the 3 main characters! Look at these bad boys! More pics from Roger if they so choose, i hear they had a photo shoot! The sage: First off, we will be offering an equivalent prize of Steam card/Xbox card/Playstation card/Nintendo card of $50 for the top 3 prize pool. That should round off the prize pool for the top 3 prizes. Second, whatever we don't do there, we are going to be buying Nintendo/Xbox/Playstation cards for raffle for ALL participants to be included in! Rules: You must be a member of VGS to participate! Signups will be going from the time of posting until July 9 2022 at 10:00 PM EST! This will be a bracket tournament with random seeding! We do not have the means to seed everyone properly, so rng be your friend! To signup you must reply in this post. When we have all the participants signed up, we will get the brackets setup.(I will link a spreadsheet with participants listed so make sure you are on it. If not pm me!) It will be a best of 3 matches until the top 3. When the top 3 are up, it will be a best of 5 matches to determine winners. After signups are done, you will get assinged a match and will need to pm me available times that you are willing to be around to participate! This is worldwide, so we are trying to accomodate as best as possible. First Place will get first choice of top 3 prizes, second place, second choice and third will get remaining prize. So, if you don't wanna leave it to chance, GITGUD <--link. Hopefully you all will have a good time with this and enjoy it while we grow our community. Also, forgot to mention, we look to find the SAGE in the final release of the game with sprite animations drawn by none other than @CasualCart! So with that, get to practicing scrubs! Download here: https://sgadrat.itch.io/super-tilt-bro There is also a way to join the STB discord on the link above!
  16. A Homebrew Draws Near! A blog series by @Scrobins Episode 23: Rarity: Retro Video Game Collecting in the Modern Era Introduction: For most of my life, I haven’t been someone who enjoyed documentaries. Even behind the scenes specials about subjects I liked had a hard time keeping my interest. But in the past few years, something unlocked in my brain that appreciated the stories behind my favorite interests, which sometimes offered a level of drama that rivaled the subject matter it was covering. This is especially the case for films about retro game collecting, where the breadth of stories highlights the fun of collecting and the people we meet in this pursuit. These movies, when done well, are fun because they share moments that resonate with us in the community, and help communicate to others why we are so passionate about this hobby. And Edward Payson is the kind of filmmaker who knows how to bring together a broad group of personalities who could talk for hours about the stories that animate them. Good thing there’s a follow up in the making. For this entry, I’m covering Edward’s film Rarity: Retro Video Game Collecting in the Modern Era, a documentary about the retro game collecting community and the nostalgia which drives it, bringing together a host of prominent gaming personalities and collectors to discuss their nostalgia and what about this hobby so fascinates them. The film recently won a Telly Award, as the Gold Winner in the General – Non-Broadcast category. You can watch the film on Prime Video here, on Tubi here, or buy the Blu-Ray here from Mega Cat Studios here. Writer’s Review: Some potential viewers may pause at another documentary on collecting and retro gaming, following Nintendo Quest (2015), The New 8-Bit Heroes (2016), The Bits of Yesterday (2018), and other related productions, but this is not just another collecting film. Rarity is about collecting as well yes, but it’s more about nostalgia. The difference lies in its stories. Where Nintendo Quest focuses on the drive of its (unsympathetic) protagonist trying to obtain the full licensed NES library in an arbitrary period, and The New 8-Bit Heroes follows the resurrection of one man’s dream of completing the game he conceived of as a kid, Rarity more closely parallels The Bits of Yesterday in sharing insights, stories, and memories that helps articulate why we love collecting what others might minimize as obsolete technology. Rarity provides a collection of thoughtful voices that create an almost academic discussion on collecting and nostalgia, asking where it comes from and why it has evolved as it has with regard to retro video games. The tales shared throughout the film highlight the wide range of experiences that gave rise to a love of retro games, with different games, consoles, and even collecting goals resonating with different people, including the director himself. Whether it’s reliving the rush of some magical Christmas morning years ago or a means of bonding with and remembering loved ones, Rarity dives into the deeply personal details that might go unnoticed if people like Ed didn’t make the effort to learn. Interviewee’s insights touch on some major debates in the collecting community today, such as the rise of graded games. This is something of a one-sided conversation that features several people supporting graded games, and could have benefitted from the inclusion of more critical points that addressed its impact on pricing, even on the ungraded market. I think one can be critical of opportunistic investors without being blanket labeled as greedy. Graded game collecting: to some the next stage of collecting, and to others a speculator-induced nightmare Some stories also reflect potentially unethical collecting practices, such as when one subject recalls getting a great deal on an item by holding up the item to ask for the price, but pretending he didn’t hear the seller asking what it was. He does at least acknowledge that what he did was problematic and expressed some regret. Though I don’t agree with everything said by Rarity’s subjects, it’s because of their inclusion that I think this film stands out as worth watching. Rarity demonstrates how its subjects, and collectors more broadly, are human. The personal narrative that might drive our collecting or the adrenaline rush from unexpectedly happening upon a grail can create a tunnel vision that leads us to justify ourselves into prioritizing our wants over others and ignore the common courtesies we might otherwise follow. That is not to say that Rarity has a particular agenda in its presentation, but rather allows its interviewees to be as expressive as they want so they can speak at length about their experiences. This film recognizes that this is a niche community that’s gotten the documentary treatment several times over, so it is fair to say that Rarity knows it is joining a conversation already in progress, and is using its time to share its opinions rather than set the table all over again to explain what the community is to an audience that already knows. Rarity wants you to think and engage. Interview: For the story behind this story collecting endeavor, I interviewed Edward Payson, and got to learn about all the other interesting projects he has in the hopper… Edward Payson @anAntiHero -Before we get into Rarity: Retro Video Game Collecting in the Modern Era, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a filmmaker? What is the origin story of Edward Payson? I knew I wanted to do something creative from a really young age actually. I had so much fun at family holidays using the family camcorder to make short skits with action figures (while I should have been recording the event) I joined some screenwriting classes in high school and that solidified that I wanted to make movies but, growing up in New Hampshire I was met with either confusion or ridicule from most people. It wasn't until I became serious about it and packed up and moved to Los Angeles for film school that I really learned what was possible. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? I'm actually more heavily influenced by the filmmakers who made something worthwhile without having bloated budgets. People like Robert Rodriquez or George A. Romero come to mind. It's a rebel way of filmmaking where you don't take “No” for an answer and make your film by any means necessary. My influences today are people like Jeremy Gardner and other indie horror producers most people have never heard of. Poster for The Battery, directed by and starring Jeremy Gardner -Your resume boasts shorts, documentaries, and films across genres. Do you have a preference among the types of films you make? Do you have a particular aesthetic across them? While horror has always been my bread and butter, I love the whole process of documentary filmmaking, especially when they are about subjects or people I enjoy. -What to you are the essentials of a compelling film or an informative documentary? I think they are one in the same. I think the only sin when it comes to a film is that it can' be boring. -How did you make James Deighan’s acquaintance? Does he know everybody? So when preparing for my film BITS we had to think outside the box a little bit. It’s a film about a haunted Sega Genesis game that no doubt would be a HARD -R rating. That meant Nintendo and Sega wouldn't let us license actual games in a film that takes place 70% in a Retro Game Store. To get around this, we reached out to many indie companies making 8- and 16-bit games. Mega Cat was the most responsive (essentially giving use access to their library) for the film. We got to talking and the idea was to release the haunted game in the film, through Mega Cat when the film releases. -You’re also finishing work on a horror film about a haunted video game called Bits. What are the unique challenges of making a documentary compared to a film such as Bits? Documentaries are a lot more laid back. Typically they cost a lot less to make and don't require 8–12-hour days with giant crews. Also when you are making a narrative feature with more money, that means more cooks in the kitchen and in case you are very lucky, you don't get the final cut of your film without approval from multiple heads. Teaser image from Bits -Any thoughts on hiring James to adapt Bits into a playable video game? See above -What was the catalyst that inspired you to make Rarity? I myself am heavily into the Retro Community. I'm going for a full Sega Genesis set myself and have over 100 Nes and SNES games as well. This day and age I just want to work on cool projects with cool people and the Retro Community has been my favorite community to work with thus far. -Rarity enters a sort of conversation among retro gaming, following other documentaries such as Nintendo Quest (2015), The New 8-bit Heroes (2016), and The Bits of Yesterday (2018). What do you want your audience to take away from Rarity and the story it tells? Really Rarity was made to quench the thirst of a side of the Retro Community that doesn't get much coverage when it comes to documentaries and that is the collector side. With the introduction and divisiveness of graded games etc. It just felt like the right time to make a documentary that celebrates collecting, rare items and the stories behind them. Also for your watch list -Rarity is about retro game collecting, noting some people collect cart-only, some pursue CIBs, others liked sealed games, and still others want graded games. You yourself are a collector. What kind of collector are you? I collect everything, it really depends. I always try for CIB with my Genesis set. NES, I go mostly loose carts, but I also collect sealed and graded games. I'm all over the place. -You show off some of the grails of your collection, like the Blockbuster Game Factory carts. What grails are you hoping to add to your collection someday? I would love to someday add Outback Joey, the QVC Maximum Carnage box set, the New Leaf carts I'm missing. I've also been trying to acquire a lot of Genesis prototypes. -I noticed a copy of Pier Solar behind you when you speak in Rarity, and some light Instagram stalking revealed you have Haunted Halloween ’85 and ’86. Do you have any other homebrews in your collection? I have a ton of homebrews, whole shelfs full actually. The newest being John Riggs Yeah Yeah Beebiss. I also just ordered a weird porno game for Genesis called Mega Casanova 2 just for the rarity of it (about 40 carts made) I also try and contribute whenever a new Retro game is made on Kickstarter. Other than that I have Beggar Prince from Super Fighter team, a bunch of Mega Cat stuff, some Piko stuff, lots of hacks. -Did you have pre-existing relationships with the various people you interviewed? For any that you didn’t, how did you connect with them? I’ve learned with working on various projects in the past, its best to start with interviewing people you know. If you are kind and cool to work with, they will be excited to tell their friends about your project and it just gets easier from there. This started a project with just 4 interviews planned. -If there was one more person you could have interviewed for Rarity, who would you want to include? Well anyone we weren't able to interview we are trying to interview for Part 2 so I will keep you posted. -Would you say you have a technique to your interviewing? How do you get the best out of your subjects? Usually when you are interviewing people who are well versed in a subject it is easy to get them to talk about it. Sometimes general stage directions are all that’s needed like “hey it looks like you’re frowning” or don't slouch. Also the more well researched your questions usually leads to better interviews. -Rarity touches on some controversial subjects in the retro game collecting world, such as the ethics of getting a good deal from a seller who may not appreciate what they have, and the rise of grading games & the corresponding rise in prices. Do you have thoughts on these topics, both as the director and as someone who speaks in front of the camera? I honestly think something in all communities not just Retro Games, but in all humanity, we suffer from toxic tribalism. Everyone thinks they are right, or the way they collect is right. When people feel a certain way about something, they seek people with the same mindset which furthers the thought they must be right. I don't think there is a right or wrong way to collect. When it comes to graded games, every collectable has a graded market. When it comes to the ethics of getting things for a steal, it really depends on the situation. I think most people like to get things for a deal and put the responsibility on the seller to tell you what they want for something. -As the director, do you try to be objective in your presentation of your interview subjects, or do you try to present them in a particular light? I try and present them at face value. What they are willing to say on camera is fair game as to what ends up in the documentary. -There are some great collecting stories borne out of people tapping into their nostalgia, did any especially resonate with you? Tyler Esposito and his stories about collecting with his father and having his father tape most of those experiences is very special to me. I lost my father around the same time Tyler lost his. Not only are Tyler's videos on My Retro Life YouTube channel compelling, I also relate in a lot of ways. Check out Tyler’s YouTube channel -Do you feel there is any particular phenomena driving the nostalgia for retro games? Is there something inherent in what Nintendo, Sega, or others did during these old consoles’ lifespans that is having this effect? Or is it simply that our generation, having grown up with these games, is excited over something that was a big part of that moment in our lives, and we could just as easily be nostalgic for something else? I honestly think being an adult is hard. For a long time there was kind of this thought built into us that we are born to live, work and die. I feel like the Millennial generation and late Gen X are on to something with bringing back moments of their childhood to enrich their present. -Did anything you heard from your interviews meaningfully change your thinking about any aspect of retro game collecting? I didn't know much about graded game collecting at first but feel like I have a good grasp now from both sides of the argument. -What was the most surprising thing you discovered while making Rarity? Did your direction or focus change at all between initial planning and putting the final product together? Honestly it surprised me just how much easier it is to work with people in the Retro game community than with actors. There was a little ego from anyone and people all just wanted to make the best product possible. -According to IMDb, there’s a Rarity Part 2 in post-production. What can you tell us about what to expect next? Rarity is actually in production right now. Chapters will continue just as if it was part of part 1, starting with Chapter 6. We will have a wide range of subjects and a lot more interviews. -Have you given any thought to a follow-up devoted to the homebrew scene? There is a full chapter devoted to homebrews and hacks in the new doc. -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? Thanks for reading. Please check out the Rarity page on Facebook for any updates. Also got to megacatstudios.com to pick up an amazing NES style Blu-ray full of extras. Thanks so much for your time. Conclusion: Thanks for tuning in to this latest episode of a series that covers the latest homebrew games that should be on your wishlist. I’m taking the time to engage with other great resources in the retro gaming community and promote their hard work. Also in the mix will be a post about retro gaming magazines that cover homebrews among other topics. What are your thoughts on Rarity and what do you hope to see in Edward’s follow up? What homebrews are you eagerly looking forward to? Perhaps you’ll see it here soon when…A Homebrew Draws Near! Command?
  17. Hello! Opening this thread as an information dump for Project Sword, an NES action platformer currently in development in collaboration with Bite the Chili (Gauauu)and myself. Hoping to get some conversation going about the game, the features we are working on, and the type of enthusiasm that may be out there as we work to build towards our early demo of the game. As well, hoping to document some of the development processes of the game here when possible. Gauauu had contacted me to see if I had an interest in providing graphic assets for a mid-size NES game that he could plug away at between releasing the fantastic Anguna and finishing the hotly anticipated sci-fi exploration game Halcyon. The latter being of special significance to my early interest in homebrew, I jumped at the chance. Gauauu proposed an action platformer inspired by the wall jumping in Sunsoft's Batman mixed with the twitchy pacing of Ninja Gaiden. Set in a fantasy setting inspired by the Princess Bride. All of this sounded like something I would be excited to play myself, so I agreed to help! We've accomplished a number of things already, Gauauu has a wonderful 4-way scrolling engine set up to handle the larger nametables needed for batman-like wall jumping stages, as well as created some tight and intuitive wall jumping controls. Additionally, we have bank switching player sprites, DPCM percussion, some impressive palette fades, and some interesting powerups. The engine is really smooth, which is about all I am qualified to say about it since Gauauu is the programmer and I am exclusively working on assets, hopefully he can share more about the programming in the project. We've got some test levels set up and some initial prototypes to test game mechanics. I also went ahead and composed about 4-5 songs to get us started building the prototype. I have some concept music posted here including our DPCM samples for the proposed Titlescreen/Attract sequence: My first task on the project was developing our player character: I started to draw a princess via princess bride but got bored with that and she quickly became a selectable playable character as well: Portraits contributed by my friend and musical collaborator Steve D'eau. These are WIP I started breaking down the tilesets to our source inspiration (batman, and Ninja Gaiden) as well as adding influence from games set in fantasy settings like Simons Quest, shadow of the ninja, and Megaman 6 (knightman). *fairytale motif inspired by the princess bride: Iterations of the main Sorcerer villain shaping up after a little advice from Mteegfx: More portrait work by Steve D'eau: The sorcerer in his citadel: Supporting characters: The original theme of the project has spiraled out quite a bit since I started heaping in all my TV/Film fantasy influences. I've been doubling down on watching swashbuckling/fantasy/high adventure films while I am working and have been spending a lot of time with MGM's 1962 Harryhausen stop motion knock-off Jack and the giant killer, Erol Flynn's 1938 Robin Hood film, Max Fleischer's 1939 Gulliver's Travels cartoon, Harryhausen's 1963 Argonauts, and 1973's Golden Voyage of Sinbad, and Ralph Bakshi's 1983 Fire and Ice. Of course, accompanied by the aforementioned Princess Bride. As a side note in this thread, if there are any swashbuckling/fantasy/adventure films that should be included here with this, I would love to hear about them and discuss them here. AS a personal note, I made a point to finish both Batman and Ninja Gaiden after starting this project, having the proper motivation allowed me to power through each and gave me a newfound respect for those games. Batman especially, what a wonderful game! Those visuals! That play control! That MUUUUSSSSSICCCCC!!!! (partly the inspiration for using DPCM on this project) Again, we're moving forward into our demo phase and will be looking for beta testers and feedback from the community, so if you have any questions about the project or wish to contribute feedback to either Gauauu, or myself you can do so here I am very clearly excited about Project Sword and look forward to sharing more with the community going forward. Keep an eye out for us!! Thanks for checking us out -team Sword
  18. Hi to everyone on Video Game Sage, just got here because of @Scrobins Diamond Thieves post. Let me introduce myself and tell about my homebrew projects. Amaweks, freelancer pixel artist, Mangangá Team artist (some times music, level design, character design too, you know, we are avery small team), and solo game dev on my personal projects. There are info about Mangangá Team in our website www.mangangateam.com and even 2 free Sega Gen/MD homebrew games for download. There is my site and itchio site with my personal game projects www.amaweks.com and https://amaweks.itch.io/ been the last ones Virgil's Purgatory for MSX and ZX Spectrum, Devwill Too for MSX and ZX Spectrum, and Devwill Too Prologue for MD with Mangangá Team. That's it
  19. The Mega Cat Chronicles A blog series by @Scrobins Episode 1: Diamond Thieves Introduction: In the beginning, homebrew was the hobby of mad scientists experimenting with their own limited resources. There were no supply chains. Donor carts were the norm. But the community’s potential increased dramatically with the arrival of publishers offering molds for new cartridges, technical expertise to polish a game’s code, and a range of services including the printing of quality labels, boxes, and manuals, and distribution through their online storefronts. Homebrewers were no longer constrained by their own means, but could tap into the resources of others such as RetroUSB. InfiniteNESLives, Broke Studio, the 6502 Collective, and Mega Cat Studios. Sibling to the defunct 8 Bit Evolution, Mega Cat Studios has grown to become one of the biggest platforms for homebrew, as well as games for modern consoles. In addition to its own passion projects, the Mega Cat portfolio includes a number of commissioned projects as well as the initial or follow-up releases of other devs’ games at a greater scale. It is in that spirit that Mega Cat has cultivated new collaborations to expand its presence and broaden homebrew’s reach with partnerships such as 8 Bit Legit with Retrotainment Games, and a brand-new opportunity with Video Game Sage! It IS the game That’s right, VGS is teaming up with Mega Cat Studios to release homebrew games and promote their developers. Mega Cat combines its thick rolodex of developers and its publishing & distribution muscle with the talents of VGS’ staff, including my writing, and @CasualCart & @BortLicensePlate’s artistic prowess, and our collective promotional reach to help bring new physical releases to gamers that might not otherwise see the light of day. And to think it all began with a miscommunication. On September 22, 2021, nemezes tweeted about a limited release (just 5 CIBs) for a new game from Mangangá Team: Ladrões de Diamantes, or Diamond Thieves. I messaged him about getting a copy for myself, unfortunately international shipping costs made worldwide distribution prohibitively expensive. Nemezes hoped to find someone who could distribute his game beyond his country. That search was apparently fruitful, because on October 27, 2021, no less than James “Mega Cat” Deighan emailed me, saying amaweks (another prominent member of Mangangá) mentioned I was interested in buying a small run of Diamond Thieves. I was confused at first, I just wanted a copy for myself. It’s worth noting here that James and I were hardly strangers at this point; we have met in person and emailed back and forth over a number of projects. So I think it’s safe to say we were already good friends. And like our many other emails, this email wasn’t just a quick transactional back and forth, but a full-on conversation, catching up with each other on top of talking about the game itself. Eventually the conversation pivoted to an interesting idea: what if VGS partnered with Mega Cat to release Diamond Thieves and other games in our own joint series? Retro Homies A flurry of emails, forum threads, and video calls followed, as the excitement of what we could do to play with this opportunity was fleshed out. We would have a lot of leeway to put our mark on these releases, and both we and Mega Cat could draw on our respective staffs’ talents and communities to encourage brewers to release games they might like to publish but for whatever reason never took that step toward Kickstarter or any of the other publishers. This collaboration has been such a blast! James enjoyed CasualCart & BortLicensePlate’s new art so much, he asked them to put together a storyboard for the release trailer. And Diamond Thieves, with its premise of aliens and robots fighting over gems, you can imagine how much we sank our teeth into making fun art and text for the box. We are excited to launch this series, and are proud for Diamond Thieves to be the first game to herald what more there is to come. BortLicensePlate’s Box Design with CasualCart’s Cover Art To help shed light on the games getting a physical release through our collaboration, I’m also launching a spin-off to my homebrew blog A Homebrew Draws Near! To highlight the publisher who makes it possible, I’m calling this series The Mega Cat Chronicles. So let’s get started: for this entry, I’m covering Diamond Thieves, a platforming adventure for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, developed by Mangangá Team. As of the time of this writing, CIBs of the game are available through Mega Cat Studios here. Development Team: nemezes (Laudelino): programming amaweks (Paulo A. M. Villalva): background art & logo Casemiro Azevedo: music Filipe Brizolara: cutscenes Saruzilla: original cover art Fernando Dias: original manual/poster art Original CIB Design by Saruzilla Game Evolution: Diamond Thieves first popped up on our radar with an October 31, 2020 tweet, in which nemezes teased the beginnings of an “alien game.” Its title was announced in another tweet on November 8, 2020. More news entered our orbit over the course of the following year, sharing gameplay mechanics and occasionally crowdsourcing input on sprite design, such as how best to distinguish the various keys needed to complete each stage. On September 22, 2021, an initial CIB run of 5 copies of Diamond Thieves was announced. Given the shipping/export costs associated with mailing out of Brazil, the reach of these carts was understandably limited. Enter the Mega Cat, with an assist from VGS. Early Development Screenshot from Diamond Thieves Gameplay Overview: Diamond Thieves is a platformer with a pinch of puzzle work. You play as an alien adventurer, locked in the eternal struggle against robots in a race to scoop up the diamonds scattered throughout the universe. You must make your way through each stage, collecting diamonds, finding the keys needed to unlock your path forward, and defeat the robots who would enslave you. Climb ladders and boxes, jump on springs, push buttons, do whatever it takes to reach the checkpoints that mark your progress. Every step counts but watch out for the creatures and pitfalls of each level because these worlds won’t give up their gems too easily. At least there are hearts to replenish your health, and coins galore (10 of which will grant you an extra life)! You aren’t completely defenseless; armed with your laser pistol, you have a fighting chance in such hostile territory, but be careful not to waste your shots or you might be caught in a sticky situation while waiting for it to recharge. The game’s controls are intuitive. Left and right on the d-pad moves you accordingly, while up and down will help you climb any ladders. The C button allows you to jump and jump off ladders while the B button shoots the laser pistol, but only when the laser bar in the HUD is full. Start pauses your game. And of course you can reconfigure the controls to your liking in the title screen menu. Screenshot from Diamond Thieves Writer’s Review: Diamond Thieves is a hefty scoop of colorful cuteness that easily could have been the genesis of a 90s Saturday morning cartoon. This is a game well-suited for players of all ages, serving as the kind of simple platformer one can turn to as a relaxing escape. Reminiscent of family-friendly forays like Kid Chameleon and Toe Jam & Earl 2, Diamond Thieves is a light, fun adventure that knows some homebrew fans want to pass their nostalgia on to younger generations and will need games with low barriers to entry to appeal to them. Adding to its low-pressure ambiance, Diamond Thieves offers a password system so you can pick up & play, then drop it down & return at your convenience. But don’t interpret this to mean that the game is easy. The limits of your laser attack make you especially vulnerable if you aren’t judicious with its use. And more than once I fell into the trap of assuming that because each key has a distinct color and number that is consistent across each stage that means they are to be obtained in that order every time, forcing me to backtrack to obtain a key I thought I was supposed to leave for later. As I’ve mentioned, the graphics are cute and colorful, despite the landscape’s tricky terrain. There’s something amusing to how the platforms hovering above water wiggle to warn you they’re about to plummet. The backgrounds add an other-worldly layer to the landscape, and its parallax scrolling adds the sense of depth only found while galivanting in deep space. Meanwhile Diamond Thieves’ music taps into the sounds players love that only the Sega Genesis provides. Those deep bass riffs we’ve come to expect from this 16-bit console, paired with the music’s higher pitched twangs and sound effects perfectly articulate the soundtrack defined by the keywords “cute”, “spacey”, and “fun.” Interviews: So who are the devs behind Mangangá Team, entrusting VGS and Mega Cat with their work? I interviewed several members to learn more about their backgrounds and of course their passions, which have given rise to this fun game. Nemezes/Laudelino @laudelino7 -Before we dive into Diamond Thieves, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrewer? What is the origin story of nemezes? What inspired me is the opportunity to use software that facilitates to coding, especially for the Mega Drive. Also, that I had a Mega Drive in my childhood. The origin of nemezes is simple, it is an anagram of Menezes, my surname. A friend once called me this way and I liked the idea. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? My influences in game developing are all the games that I played. I mainly focus on simple mechanics, puzzles and what’s fun to play. -How would you describe your design aesthetic, and what to you are the hallmarks of a nemezes game? The design aesthetic of simple games, but with a lot of workarounds to deal with the Mega Drive limitations. -What tools do you use to code and create? I once used BasiEgaXorz (also known as BEX) and SecondBASIC, but now I am using SGDK to code games for the Mega Drive. SecondBASIC, the gift from Adam that keeps on giving -How did your relationship with the other members of Mangangá Team come about? All the relationship came about through the Internet on social networks. First I met Paulo ‘amaweks’, then Luiz Felipe, as he is amaweks’ brother. Casemiro I met through an intermediate on Twitter. -What was the working dynamic like in the development of Diamond Thieves? First I made the basic dynamics of the game. Then I asked Casemiro to compose the songs, which he did very well. Amaweks appeared in the last minute to make all the background art, the logo of the game and the cover art. Everything just fit well together. -How did you first connect with Mega Cat Studios? I do not remember well how this happened, but I think that amaweks had the first contact, then I get in touch with Mega Cat Studios. It was when we were making Devwill Too game for Mega Drive, around 2019. Screenshot from Devwill Too for the Sega Genesis -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in working on the game? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? I can recommend that if you are an independent game developer, you should focus on simplicity for your games, so it’s something you can finish, as it really is difficult to make a game, because it has a lot of things to be made: code, music, all the art, etc. Keep it simple, but fun, and finish the game, so everyone can play it. -There has been a lot of support and enthusiasm for Diamond Thieves in the leadup to its release, in collaboration with Mega Cat Studios and VGS. How does it feel to see Diamond Thieves serve as the launch title for this new collaboration so people can play your game? That is awesome, we hope that the game gets a good reception from the community. -What aspects of Diamond Thieves are you most proud of? The puzzle mechanics: find the right order of keys to open doors, the box mechanic to activate buttons that open doors, the runaway stages, the design of bosses; all aspects of the game. -With the rest of Mangangá Team, you have also developed games such as Devwill and Capoeira Boy, as well as other games you’ve worked on independently. Do you have a favorite game that you’ve programmed? All the games are my favorite, because in each game we try to improve our skills in general, make a new coding challenge, a new graphic feature and other good effects. -Are there any other games of yours you would like to see released through this Mega Cat/VGS partnership? Arapuca would a good game to be released through this partnership. It is a puzzle game, like Sokoban, but with Mode 7 rotation on the Mega Drive. Screenshots from the upcoming Arapuca (Trap) for the Sega Genesis -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon? Any dream projects? We are finishing the Devwill Too prologue. -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? Yes, I am looking forward to seeing the final version of Phantom Gear. -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? Thanks for the interest. I appreciate the attention and I hope people keep giving good feedback on our games. Thank you all! Paulo Villalva @amaweks -Before we dive into Diamond Thieves, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrewer and artist? What is the origin story of amaweks? Long story, but I think that everything I’ve learned as an artist in my entire life lead me do develop games. First, I was a kid in the 80’s and 90’s, playing games from Atari 2600 to N64. Drawing since childhood, I’ve done a lot of things in about 20 years like learning playing musical instruments, recording songs, doing comic books, studying visual arts, narrative, pixel art, and many more (see some of my productions on my personal blog www.diarioartografico.blogspot.com). As a teacher in schools I’ve helped my student classes to make a total of 11 PC retro games, that can be downloaded for free here https://gameartesescola.blogspot.com/. I finished my first solo game project in 2014, and since then I have done a lot of other games on my own (www.amaweks.com), and games as a member of Mangangá Team (www.mangangateam.com). I’ve worked on several NES projects for Mega Cat Studios as a freelance pixel artist too. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? As a game maker, Locomalito is one great influence. For narrative, Alan Moore, and old silent movie film makers, like Chaplin or Fritz Lang. For pixel art, strangely, I’ve come to admire and follow some artists only recently. Old 8-bit and 16-bit games’ pixel art are surely my main influence. But I love to look close to the work of Arne https://twitter.com/AndroidArts, and FrankenGFX https://twitter.com/FrankenGraphics, and Surt https://twitter.com/not_surt . Durandal by Arne -Do you feel that your art has any qualities that are uniquely you? How would you describe your aesthetic? I think that my pixel art is very retro inspired, and does not look like modern pixel art. But I love to find the limits of pixel art restriction on old systems. Right now I’m testing my limits as an artist doing 1-bit (1 color + transparency) sprites. Making a good and well animated (with few frames) 1-bit sprite is such a challenge, and it all depends a lot on the character design. As a character design I think I’m always around with a mix of “cute” but “creepy” little monsters. Almost all of the main characters of my games are like this, they are cute and have a kind look, but at the same time are a little creepy and strange. And as a game maker I’m trying to make games that looks like 80’s and 90’s games, but with a twist on the narrative content: adding ethnic, cultural, or philosophic elements that makes them a bit more “adult” than the games from my childhood. -Have you noticed any changes in your style or game development preferences over the years? I really do not know, I still try a mix of things, it all depends on the game concept. I may try to make a game a colorful as possible, or I can try to make the graphics look more minimalist. The target system can influence that decision. I think I’m becoming more experienced and better at choosing the art style for each project. -What tools do you use to create your art? For pixel art, old Paint Shop Pro 9, and WinXP software that is almost a simplified version of Photoshop. For music, any tracker that supports the system I’m working on, but mostly Deflemask and vortex tracker II. For anything else, good old PC notepad, and a lot of real pen and paper. -In your opinion, what makes good game art stand out? I really do not know, for me all kinds of art can stand out, depending on the whole game. Some games will need a style of art, others will shine with another style. As a general rule, the art must be synthetic, it must reduce and represent things of the real world (or from our dreams) in an aesthetic way. A game, and pixel art too, must be understood as an aesthetic language, with its own rules, like any other language. -Tell me about the development of the art you created for the game, what is your composition process? In fact I did not do much on Diamond Thieves. Mostly sprites and tilesets. Laudelino/nemezes took from a free repository, and was made by Surt. I’ve done the background artwork, helped with some ideas for the game and level design. I created the title screen too. And that’s most of it for this one. -How did you first connect with Mega Cat Studios? My first contact with Mega Cat Studios was when I asked them to publish our first Sega Genesis game, Devwill Too. Then we established a very good relationship, and I started to work freelance pixel art jobs for them. I like their projects, and I’m very proud of the work I’ve done for Mega Cat Studios’ projects, mostly NES games. I think all good relationships need mostly confidence, and I really have that about them and it looks like they think the same. -How did your relationship with the other members of Mangangá Team come about? Laudelino came to me on a forum, asking for partnership. I was doing my own PC games, learning, so it looked like a good opportunity for us to learn together. We really have grown together as a team, we know each other’s limitations and make realistic projects scopes, that we can start and finish before getting bored or quit the project. Lots of good projects just do not get finished because of a too ambitious scope, and we want to avoid this. So while we do bigger projects, we like to have some time on small ones to keep things going. -What was the working dynamic like in your development of Diamond Thieves? Diamond Thieves was one of those small projects made between pauses on the big projects. So we work very freely on it, with not much of a general scope. The engine was made as an experiment for the new engine for Mega Devwill (some of the mechanics are the same: the player jumps, shoots a small projectile, has to wait a time to shoot again, and have to find keys to open doors). Since this project was mostly Laudelino’s creation, I worked in my spare time when needed help. Screenshot from the upcoming Mega Devwill for the Sega Genesis -Ever since my first episode, M-Tee planted this idea in my mind that a game’s protagonist serves as the player's point of immersion in the game, informing how we understand the game's world. I also believe that the protagonist’s design serves as a reflection of its designer. What was the intention behind the design of the alien protagonist, and do you see aspects of yourself in him? Well, the character design and sprites are not mine, all I can say is that “charisma” for a character can be reached in many different ways. I like “silent” characters, like “mimics” who express themselves with minimalist talk and expression. Like 16-bit Sonic and Mario, most of the charisma comes from the fact that they do not talk. They are just there; other characters talk or interact with them. But, they react. They say that the more minimalist the “avatar”, the more easily a person can identify with them and play in their skin. I think that applies here and in our other games. -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in working on Diamond Thieves? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? I think that we learned how to do proper parallax scrolling with Diamond Thieves. That a small game can work and be shared with the public too. And that making small projects while doing bigger and longer ones helps us to “stay alive”, to have a bit of that sense of accomplishment to keep motivated. -What aspects of Diamond Thieves are you most proud of? I liked my title screen. The backgrounds are made dark to make the foreground and level design pop, and I think that works, and it has parallax -With the rest of Mangangá Team, you have also developed games such as Devwill and Capoeira Boy, as well as other games you’ve worked on independently. Do you have a favorite game that you’ve created art for? It’s hard to tell. I love all my games and games I’ve done with Mangangá Team as they are my children. I think that I’m very proud of the sprites and character design I did for Arapuca, a small puzzle game for Sega Genesis that was Laudelino’s idea. And I’m really proud of myself for the stage graphics of Devwill Too Prologue, our new game in the series. I did a lot of parallaxes, and my palette usage is very mature there, very colorful. I’ve animated a spinning tower that was really hard work, but it looks great. -Are there any other games of yours you would like to see released through this Mega Cat/VGS partnership? Of course, I think Arapuca is a good small puzzle game that deserves a small cartridge run. Devwill Too Prologue, the new chapter on the series, will look great on the shelves alongside the original, that’s for sure. And, when we finish it, Mega Devwill, which is a remake of the first Devwill game, that I made for PC back in 2017. -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon? Any dream projects? Lots, and lots, and lots of projects. The ones I’ve already told, Devwill Too Prologue, almost finished, and Mega Dewill, that needs a year of development still. I personally have dozens of projects, some with a lot done on pre-production and even narrative and pixel art production. But time is short, and we always have to choose priorities. I like to say that on Mangangá Team we work like a rock band. We share everything, money, work, and projects. Some projects start as someone’s idea, then it opens for other members’ contributions. Screenshot from the upcoming Devwill Too Prologue for the Sega Genesis -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? Every new homebrew game for my childhood systems always makes me excited to play. Recently I’ve played Xeno Crisis a lot; it’s a hard game, I’m not good at it, but I love it. I love Tanzer, and I’m excited for the sequel. And every game or project that challenges the limits of any retro systems are always eye candy and I want to play them all. -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? Thanks for everyone that supports our work. As an independent and homebrew game maker, we cannot survive without a sense of community, because we are niche. But I’m glad that we have, year by year, reached more people that support our work. If you want to develop a game, for any platform, aim for a small scope first. A too big first project will easily drain your energy and make you quit. So, start small, to build your whole picture brick by brick. Casemiro Azevedo @Kazemyers -Before we dive into Diamond Thieves, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to be a musician? What led you to compose music for homebrew games? What is your origin story? Music has always been a part of my life. My father plays the acoustic guitar, and my mother is an avid music listener. So even though I started working as a lighting designer (And still do. Seems like two very different things, but I they are actually quite similar in many areas), I never stopped developing and studying my composing/producing/sound designing skills. My brother Vitório O. Az is also a composer/sound designer, we are very close, we both started roughly at the same time, and since then we always share our experiences and discoveries in the field, helping and growing together so much so that we ended up composing many soundtracks together. When DAWs became accessible, I started producing, and never stopped since. Until one day a friend of mine invited me to compose for a game he was making, and I accepted. That was 8 years ago. Since then I got into dynamic audio, chiptune, and have worked in many game projects. I grew up with 16-bit consoles, so composing for homebrew retro games was something of a bucket-list item. Actually composing for a specific sound chip, and having it released in a physical cartridge is something I’m very happy I can be a part of. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? My main influences for chiptune are probably Hiroyuki Iwatsuki for his amazing work on Wild Guns and Ninja Warriors Again, Yasunori Mitsuda, Yuzo Koshiro among others. For general music influences I would say I’m very influenced by movie and theater music and soundtracks, I love leitmotivs and designing music and audio with strong narrative/dramaturgy. Also I love heavy sound design in music, so, Trent Reznor, Pink Floyd, Makeup and Vanity Set, Moses Sumney are all things I really like to hear and take inspiration from. And, lastly the things I’m watching closely lately: I’ve being listening to Mr. Bill a lot, and Roosevelt. Chiptune/game-wise I cannot stress enough how incredible the works of Saria Lemes and Fernanda Dias are. They are incredible artists and worth checking out. Hiroyuki Iwatsuki -Do you feel that your music has any qualities that are quintessentially you? How would you describe your aesthetic? Has your style changed or evolved over the years? I think I have this “visual” and narrative focus. That’s why I produced much more soundtracks for games, films, theater etc. than original albums. I like to have design flows for audio as well, like using a concept/technique and go as far as I can with it to create an involving narrative in the track/soundtrack and to guide the production and the story it’s trying to tell. My style developed over the years through the tools I’ve come to use. I went through a very orchestral phase, and then very synth focus, chiptune, heavy post-processing and sound design, etc. Through these tools I’m exposed to a lot of new material, music, and then I research it and try to add to my audio tool belt. -Tell me about the development of Diamond Thieves’ soundtrack, what is your composition process? Is the creative process different compared to when you might compose more traditional music? It really depends on the project. Some chiptune projects are more loop heavy than others, which makes things a little different in the planning and production phase. Or they are much more retro feeling which also changes the way I think of themes. Others are more experimental, so I think more outside the box. Despite all that I think chiptune is not just a tool for creativeness in the scope of nostalgia or retro alone, I think it is a tool that can be ripe for experimentation and new sounds, music and artistic designing, so it all very much depends on the project. The Diamond Thieves soundtrack is very short, so I aimed for the bouncy sounds that are possible with the Genesis FM chip, but the game is still about “thieves” so I tried to give it that little edge of danger and stealth. -What tools do you use to compose, generally as well as for games? I used Flstudio for many years, but since 2019 I’ve been using Ableton as my main DAW. For chiptunes I use Deflemask, SNESGSS, hUGE tracker and milkytracker. Also I use FMOD for dynamic soundtrack. -Your discography spans a wide array of music, including soundtracks for games, films, and theater. Does composing the soundtrack for a video game have different demands compared to composing compelling music for film or a play? It definitely does. In terms of structure, at least. In games you don’t have a set timeline in which events are going to happen no matter what (Unless it’s a cut scene). Much of the timing is given either through dynamic audio and player input or, as is the case for less dynamic retro games, you need to convey an entire atmosphere/narrative through a well thought out loop, while in films and podcasts you can use the events of the never changing narrative timeline to your favor when composing. -Tell me about the evolution of Diamond Thieves. Any interesting stories on the games’ development? Laudelino has this very unique way of developing, where he always comes up with the games and then with it almost finished, he sends me a ROM, and goes “this is the game, this is the art design, you want to compose for it?” And then he gives me full freedom to come up with the soundtrack. I really like to work with them. So I’ve only seen the final stages of development. -How did your relationship with the other members of Mangangá Team come about? We started to hang out on the same developers Discord server, then I started posting some chiptunes, because I was studying deflemask, and then Laudelino, Paulo and Luiz got in touch, and we started developing together. -What was the working dynamic like in your development of Diamond Thieves? We talk about how the track is going to playout, if it’s the menu soundtrack, if it is a level one, etc. On Mangangá everyone has a lot a creative freedom, so I compose something, send a file to the team, receive some feedback, correct stuff, and off to the game it goes! It’s a very horizontal approach where everyone respects each field of work while adding to the end product. -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing Diamond Thieves? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? With Diamond Thieves I think the challenge was that we had some music from other projects that we would like to implement in the game, so for the rest of the soundtrack I had to follow a few guidelines to make it work as a whole, borrowing from the old soundtracks, and incorporating them in the new tracks. I think that a good lesson to learn is that the artistic process is always developed in the constraints of our tools and scope, which is actually a great thing that can be twisted into artistic creativeness. Boundaries and limited options can be a strong help when creating, so embrace those constraints and make them shine through! -What aspects of Diamond Thieves are you most proud of? I think the visuals-audio-design aspects are working together in a very nice and tidy artistic package. -With the rest of Mangangá Team, you have also developed games such as Devwill and Capoeira Boy, as well as other games you’ve worked on independently. Do you have a favorite game that you’ve created music for? I think Mangangá (The game) was a very fun one to compose for, because I got the idea of sampling a berimbau (A Capoeira Instrument) in the Genesis sound chip, chopping the percussive and tonal parts and using it as a beat element. A Berimbau Arapuca I also liked very much, as I was inspired by electro swing for the Soundtrack. I guess swing music reminds me of cats?? I don’t know, maybe because of the Aristocats movie. -Are there any other games of yours you would like to see released through this Mega Cat/VGS partnership? Hopefully Mangangá team will have more games coming and we can make more of this great partnership with Mega Cat Studios! There is also a GBC game that might be in the minds of the co-op gamedev that I’m part of, and maybe going into development soon. A partnership with Mega Cat/VGS would be awesome. -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon? Any dream projects? Yes, we are about to start the sequels for “Bem Feito” a game by the co-op team: OiCabie, Yukooh, Breno Dias and me. Also a little short film which I can’t talk about it yet, and hopefully more Mangangá games. As for dream projects, I’d love to work on more Genesis and SNES games. I also have this dream to compose/sound design for a 16-bit horror game, something like Clock Tower! That would be awesome. I would also like to tackle a very dynamic soundtrack for an investigation game. I have many dream projects that hopefully will come to reality some day! -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? I’m really looking forward to playing “Repugnant Bounty” for the GBC. Screenshot from Repugnant Bounty by Starlab -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? Thanks for playing Mangangá games, thanks for being part of this crazy homebrew community, and check out the team’s other projects! Conclusion: Thanks for tuning in to this first episode of a new series that will bring attention to some deserving homebrewers and their games, and heralding the release of a special physical run of their games thanks to the collaboration of Mega Cat Studios and Video Game Sage. Like my other blog series, I hope to take deep dives into the stories behind the game and its creators. What are your thoughts on Diamond Thieves and the Mangangá Team? Are there any completed or in-development homebrews that you are praying get a physical release? Maybe that will be the next entry in…The Mega Cat Chronicles!
  20. Voting for the NES Homebrew Hall of Fame is open through May 31, 2022! All you have to do is click the link below, read the instructions, and post your votes in the comment section. No paid Substack subscription is required. Please share this with any of your NES homebrew friends, as I'm hoping to make the voting as robust and inclusive as possible! https://retrostack.substack.com/p/the-nes2-hall-of-fame-voting-period?s=w
  21. A Homebrew Draws Near! A blog series by @Scrobins Episode 22: Fire and Rescue Introduction: Among the many homebrewers I have been privileged to interview, several were also academics: professors who teach game design and development by day, and by night put into practice those same lessons into their own passion projects. Their expertise is expressed through their style, and sometimes traces of the teacher are apparent in their games, either highlighting the lessons they value most or serving as a piece of learning material in itself. Homebrewers often are eager to draw connections to the games that influenced them and to which they wish to pay homage, but there is something different we can eagerly expect when a brewer teases they hope for their full panoply of games to serve as a history lesson, highlighting the idiosyncrasies of their favorite games' features, reflecting the evolution of the NES’ offerings with each new game of their own. For this entry, I’m covering Fire and Rescue, a Black Box-style arcade game for the NES, developed by Skyboy Games. As of the time of this writing, the game is complete and available for purchase as a rom here, and a full, physical CIB is available here. Development Team: Skyboy Games (Robbie Dieterich): programming & music Better call 911, because this game is on FIRE Game Evolution: Fire and Rescue first teased its existence as early as June 6, 2021, when Robbie tweeted a brief clip of gameplay. Skyboy Games began work on the game in the wake of their previous game’s success: Orphea placed 2nd in Lost Cartridge Jam 2020. Screenshot from Orphea From that moment onward, Skyboy Games unleashed a veritable river of updates highlighting their progress, from the creation of the first test cartridge on September 16, 2021 (and a sample box 4 days later) to the confirmation of an eventual physical release on October 12, 2021. Before the year was out, Skyboy announced that pre-orders for the game were open on December 6, 2021 (closing 10 days later), with an option to pick up your own copy in person at Super MAGFest. Confirmation that the first copies were en route to players went out on December 17, 2021. Gameplay Overview: Fire and Rescue describes itself as an arcade-style game in the spirit of the NES’ early Black Box releases. You play as the brave firefighter trusted with saving your city and the innocent civilians who inhabit it from the host of fires ravaging your town. Using your water tank, you can go into each building and extinguish the fires within. Eventually your tank will run low, so you’ll need to hurry outside to refill it at the nearby hydrant. It’s a careful exercise in resource management, because fires can grow and spread over time, even shooting unextinguishable fireballs. And of course you must consider your own safety because you only have 2 hit points. In a fun nod to Ghosts ‘n Goblins, after the first hit you lose your helmet, and the second hit will kill you. In addition to fighting fires, you will need to save anyone trapped in the burning buildings by touching them and carrying them out one at a time to the waiting ambulance’s rescue point. Grateful citizens will leave power ups that can automatically refill your water tank or restore your helmet (and thus your health). Screenshot from Fire and Rescue The game’s controls are simple. Use the d-pad to move left and right, as well as up and down ladders. You can jump using the A button and spray water with the B button (you can spray water downwards by jumping and then pressing down and B while in midair). Select toggles options at the title menu, and Start chooses options at the title menu and pauses during gameplay. Writer’s Review: Fire and Rescue is a captivating arcade game that serves as a refreshing reminder of the kind of simple fun Nintendo delivered to pull the video game industry back from the 1983 crash. While we may also ooh and ahh over the latest development to push the hardware to its limits, Fire and Rescue exemplifies how the more recent games that populate our list of all-time favorites stand tall because they stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before. Fire and Rescue would fit in perfectly among the Black Box originals it emulates, but for all its stripped-down simplicity, it’s a stunning gem. Screenshot from NES Black Box classic Balloon Fight Gameplay includes some fun little details that add nuance. For instance, the entrance to each stage’s house includes a small set of stairs that you have to jump on in order to enter the house, otherwise you’re just walking in front of the building, and you cannot just jump up into the ground floor from standing outside in front of it. In addition to the layouts of each house and the distribution of the fires and civilians within, the placement of the ambulance and the hydrant relative to the entrance adds a dash of difficulty that will mess with your intuition. In similar touches that will challenge your assumptions and toy with speedrunners, you can jump off ladders while climbing them, but you cannot jump onto a ladder and start climbing in the middle of it to save time. This is cleverly balanced with strategic use of the dropped powerups to limit the number of times you need to go outside to refill your water tank. I had a laugh when I discovered you could jump out a window or off a balcony to take a shortcut to the street, and the fall didn’t take a toll on your health. This is all to say that Fire and Rescue has easy to learn basics, but interesting and helpful nuggets that pepper your experience, which you can only learn by getting your hands dirty…or reading my blog. The game’s graphics take a less is more approach, but still giving players everything they need. As the cute 8-bit firefighter you can see the entire layout of each house, identifying the animated fires and the people trapped among them. Perhaps like a real firefighter, all you see are the elements that matter: the people, the fire, the paths to get to either. Anything else is superfluous. Robbie plays with the negative space, incorporating furniture and appliances into the background to add a sense of art to the otherwise functional design. Meanwhile Fire and Rescue’s music lays a soft but intense tune over gameplay. Rather than the monotonous tones of some early Black Box outings, Fire and Rescue’s chiptune conveys mood: one of focus, as if the firefighter was in the zone and concentrating on getting through another day at the office, saving lives and literally putting out fires. Interviews: Unlike Billy Joel, Skyboy acknowledges they started this fire. So I reached out to interview them with all the burning questions that I love to ash all my subjects. Ok I’ll stop now. Robbie Dieterich @skyboygames -Before we dive into Fire and Rescue, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a game programmer? What is the origin story of Skyboy Games? Okay, I'll try to give you the short version of my background (if such a thing even exists.) First things first, my name is Robbie Dieterich and I'm the sole member of Skyboy Games and also an Assistant Professor of Game Design at George Mason University (GMU) in Virginia. Before coming to GMU, I was a game programmer in Tokyo where I had been working for roughly a decade working on games like Elite Beat Agents, Lips, and the Black Eyed Peas Experience. Before Tokyo, I lived and worked in Virginia (where I also went to college.) If you're wondering how exactly a college kid from VA ended up working in a Japanese game development company in Tokyo for a decade, well that's a whole other story (that involves more than a few late nights of drinking.) My Black Eyed Peas Experience: “Where is the love?” “Where is your shirt?” As far as inspiration to become a game programmer goes, you can thank a couple of magazines for that. One was early in Nintendo Power, I think in the first or second year where they had a game design contest. I didn't enter, but I remember seeing the winning entry and being enraptured with the idea of making my own games. I was probably around 8 or 9 at the time. The second inspiring magazine article came much later in an issue of Next Generation mag around '96 or so. The article listed jobs in the industry, and I fell in love with the idea of working in games. Ironically enough, I assumed I would be best suited to be a producer because I didn't think I was smart enough to be a programmer. Anyway, while I was inspired to work in games, I didn't think it could ever really happen. So, I put the thought away in the pipe dream section and ended up getting a degree in Computer Science. I didn't like CS that much per se, but I had picked up a knack for programming by doing all sorts of personal projects (usually making broken little games.) So, maybe we will get into the Tokyo connection here. After graduating college, I spent a year on the JET program teaching English in Japan. Living in Japan had been a goal of mine for a while (my mother is from Okinawa), and I studied Japanese all through college with that goal in mind. After the year in JET, I came back to the States and worked as a programmer at a government contractor. Working at the government contractor was, honestly, pretty dull. It was so dull that I ended up quitting that job to help some friends work on an arcade rhythm game. It was an... interesting time. It didn't end well however since Konami got wind of what we were up to and... applied some indirect pressure on our funding source. In a bit of a funk, I went to stay with a friend in Japan for a while. It was there that I had a chance to attend an industry party thanks to another friend I had become drinking buddies with while I was on the JET program. It was at that party that I met the guy who would become my boss for the next 10 years. I introduced myself as a freelance, i.e. unemployed, programmer, he suggested an interview and things went from there. Skyboy Games is a side business I started towards the end of my time in Japan, mainly as a vehicle for indie games that I was making. The Skyboy in Skyboy is my son. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? This is a tricky question since I'm not super conscious of strong direct influences. I do pick up influences, of course, but I think of them being more diffuse in my work and way of thought. For example, Keiichi Yano, who I worked for the most in Tokyo, is certainly an influence on how I design games. It's not, however, because I try to ape the way he approaches design, but the way he approaches making games have certainly colored the way I approach making games. Keiichi Yano As far work I'm watching closely now, I watch the work of people I've worked with before. In a way, I tend to watch projects when I have a direct personal or professional connection with the developer in question. For example, Adam from Second Dimension was a great source for PCBs and cart shells, so I've been watching Affinity Sorrow like a hawk. I grew fond of some of the developers at MIVS, so I watch their projects (like Crescendo, Unbeatable, and Noisz). Vi Grey and Justin Orenich were super fun to talk with (and Justin helped A LOT with getting me started on physical cart production) so I'm watching what they're up to next. What can I say, I'm a softy who watches other projects for soft, personal reasons. -You are also an assistant professor at George Mason University, where you teach game design. Do you feel your academic work informs your approach to game design, or perhaps your video game work informs your teaching? Yes, both ways! Most of my work in academia is teaching students how to create games which forces me to constantly organize and vocalize my understanding of how best to make games. This encourages me to apply a more rigorous process to problems I might otherwise be tempted to solve by sheer intuition. In the other direction, working on games provides concrete object lessons I can use to illustrate ideas in class. NES games are great for this since they have such tight scope. One of the benefits of working at the art school part of the university is that creating games is my art and the university encourages faculty to practice their art. -You mention in your newsletter that you spent about a decade in Tokyo programming games for a wide variety of platforms, such as the Nintendo DS, Xbox 360, iOS, and Android. Did you originally go to Tokyo for that purpose? What kind of games did you work on? What lessons have you carried from those experiences to your development work now? The biggest titles I worked on were Elite Beat Agents (Nintendo DS), Lips (Xbox 360), and the Black Eyed Peas Experience (Xbox 360 + Kinect). I also did a bunch of mobile games which I'm pretty sure are now all defunct. Under the Gloria Estefan Act, we are the rhythm and we are here to get you I think I've internalized a lot of what I learned developing games there. To unpack it a bit, I think we placed a high premium on subtle polish in what often seemed like minute areas of games. For example, the timing fraction of a second pause breath you might put between a fade-out and a fade-in. Even though I work on games mostly by myself nowadays, I find that I sometimes imagine myself in the roles of various past co-workers depending on what I'm doing. When I'm thinking about fine-tuning variables I imagine I'm working with some of the planners I've worked with (Fuji-san, Nakao-san). When I'm tuning pixel art, I'm getting imaginary feedback from former artist co-workers (Saito-san, Nakai-san, Umeji-san). When I playtest, I'm taking on the almost sadistic (to the game, not people) nature of some of the best QA managers (Hayashi-san and, the living TCR manual, Sawada-san) I've worked with. When I fix a thorny bug, I still imagine how I might explain it to my programming lead, Okada-san, back in the day. Gosh, when I say it that way, I sound like a lonely old hermit. I have in-person friends too! I swear! -How would you describe your design aesthetic, what to you are the hallmarks of a game made by you? My rule for when something looks good comes down to intentionality. Does something look the way it does on purpose? When something is lo-fi, the difference to me is whether I'm convinced that any given sound or graphic actually sounds/looks how the author intended it to. Going forward, since I'm likely to be on a hands-on tour through the technological history of NES games, my aim is to produce games that feel authentically like games of the era I'm seeking to emulate, in terms of tech, design, look and feel. -What tools do you use to code and compose for your games? Visual studio and c65 for code. I code mostly in C and roll a little bit of assembly when I need an extra performance boost. Graphics tend to be done in GIMP and then transferred into tools like YYCHR so I can arrange them in CHR memory. I compose tunes in FamiTracker. Although, "compose" isn't really the right word for it. If you listen closely to the music in FIRE AND RESCUE, you may be able to recognize it as a transposition of portions of a Sousa march. I knew beats could be fire but this is ridiculous! -With your background in more modern platforms, what inspired you to develop a game for the NES? My first game system was a NES, so I've always had a distinct love for the system. On a more programmery side, I used to read old game programming books that were centered around mode 13h PC programming. I never got to do much of that myself since when I started doing games more seriously DirectX and friends were already a thing. So, doing low-level, "dirty" coding was something I always wanted to do myself. I wanna code DIRRTY -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing Fire and Rescue? This may sound like a humble brag, but the development of FIRE AND RESCUE went pretty smoothly. To be fair, I've been around the block a fair bit with a lot of projects, so I had a pretty decent sense of the scope I wanted to aim for, and I tried to front-load the most troublesome parts of development so any ugly surprises could hit me early. For example, my original concept for the game had the player picking up and dropping their water tank and stretching a limited length hose to put out fires. Convincingly rendering the hose within the limits of NES sprite rendering (even with some BG tile trickery) proved more costly and bug-prone than I wanted, so I pivoted away from that feature during the prototyping phase of the game. I think this was a lucky choice since picking up and dropping the tank was also the drag (though the idea of having P2 move the tank while P1 sprayed could have been kind of fun.) Not that the end of the project was necessarily smooth sailing. Managing code size is a challenge and figuring out what code used up more bytes versus other code was not always intuitive. Measuring the effect of changes was super important. Optimization for performance was fun though. On modern platforms, micro-optimizations of code are rarely where you get significant wins for improving performance. On old platforms, however, those micro-optimizations can be huge. I finally got to use some of the techniques I learned from old game programming tomes and have them make a useful difference. -I always ask my interviewees whether there is a reflection of themselves in the game’s protagonist. Do you identify with the firefighter character in some way? I don't see myself in the characters per se, but there is some of me in them. Namely, the sprites for the firefighters are based on the sprites from Balloon Fight because BF was one of the two games I first got with my NES. FIRE AND RESCUE is kind of an homage to my feelings playing Balloon Fight for the first time (and opening the box for the first time, too). -Although unnamed in the game and manual, do they have a name in your head canon? They do! In my head canon, FIRE AND RESCUE would have been developed in Japan, so I imagined the characters having names written next to them somewhere in paper design materials. Originally, the names would be Ken and Satoshi (for P1 and P2, respectively) but I imagine the American localization team changed "Satoshi" to "Jay" to be more relatable in the States. Of course, the names never got used because marketing decided they weren't needed. I write fanfiction in my head for the games I make and have imaginary co-workers. I swear, I'm okay! No no, a different Jay (I hope) -There has been a lot of support and enthusiasm for Fire and Rescue, with people enjoying the game at MAGFest earlier this year. How does it feel to see so many people excited for your game? It rocks soooo much. I especially love how many people seem to get what I was going for with this game. -What aspects of Fire and Rescue are you most proud of? The aspect I'm most proud of is what I'm talking about when I talk about people "getting the game". My primary goal was to make FIRE AND RESCUE feel authentically like a Black Box NES game that was part of its original line-up. Every time someone said that the copyright message was the only thing that gave it away as a modern creation or when someone said they didn't know why, but the game just felt right for the era, I was on Cloud-9. -Your third newsletter highlights just how detail-oriented your game design is. You mention intentionally excluding “quality of life” features found in more contemporary games such as using Select and Start buttons to navigate the menu on the title screen (in line with games of the era) rather than also allow option selection via the D-pad and A button. Were these touches something you knew about from your game design or academic backgrounds, or was this the result of research prior to developing Fire and Rescue? A lot of that was instinct and memories from the game's I grew up playing. I wish I could say I had researched this carefully, but in reality, these were decisions largely based on my intuition, where adding certain things didn't feel right, didn't feel authentic to the era. -We had a chance to meet and chat in person at MAGFest this year as well! You told me something really interesting: that in addition to having much of Fire and Rescue’s design pay homage to the older black box releases, that you plan having future releases follow a design pattern that traces the history of the NES’ lifespan. Where did this idea come from, and which patterns should we be on the lookout for? That was an awesome chat, by the way! I loved talking with the "good Sean Robinson"! At the moment, I think what you'll likely see from me is me essentially unpacking my game history by making games that speak (to me at least) of the games I remember from my childhood. I didn't get to play all the NES games, but I did play quite a few, so we'll likely see me tracing through a history of NES games with a bias to games I have strong memories of. So, some examples of how that bias might play out in future projects might be having more Hogan's Alley influences than Duck Hunt or more Metroid than Kid Icarus because the former games in those two examples are one's I have more personal memories about. -Your newsletter also teases an upcoming project that will be Zapper-compatible. Given your interest in tracing the history of the NES that we discuss in an earlier question, are there other technologies you hope to incorporate at some point, whether that’s other accessories such as the PowerPad or U-Force or cartridge developments such as using a battery save feature? Oh yes, indeed. As I mentioned before, my project plan is essentially a playable homage to my personal nostalgia. Some initial research into that Zapper project... My tech choices will likely be driven by the tech requirement of the games I want to pay homage to. So, for example, I have a Metroid-ey game I want to make and it would likely be an MMC1 project with no save battery because... nostalgia (and also the chance of adding a 'Justin Bailey'-esque easter egg.) Were I doing something Zelda-inspired, I'd probably have non-password saving. (If I were to do something as an homage to the first Dragon Quest/Warrior I'd be torn on the battery save issue since the Japanese version actually used a password system!) -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, NES or otherwise? Any dream projects? Collaborations? Yes! So, next project I'm working on, Saru Kani Panic, is a collaboration with some people I've worked with before. This game is not part of the Skyboy Games brand, so its aesthetics don't hew to my NES history idea we have running. Saru Kani Panic will be running alongside with the Zapper game I hinted at in the newsletter. Later on, I want to start climbing up the NES memory mapper tech tree with a Metriod-ey or Zelda-ey game. I actually have some artist friends I'm hoping to woo for concept art for this one. (And I have a friend I would LOVE to have cosplay as a character from a game I make.) Of course, like many nerds, I do have an RPG burning a hole in my brain, waiting to come out. I might try doing a version of that someday specced to NES so the NES tech constraints can keep my project in scope. Screenshot from Saru Kani Panic in development with Work3 Studio -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? Well, as you may guess from my earlier answer, I'm getting pretty excited for Affinty Sorrow. I have some waiting to go however. -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? You are awesome! I wasn't sure what to expect when I jumped into the homebrew community, but everyone I've met has been welcoming and wonderful. Conclusion: Thanks for tuning in to this latest episode of the series that showcases the latest and greatest homebrew games that deserve a place on your shelf. What are your thoughts on Fire and Rescue, and Skyboy Games? What homebrews are you eagerly looking forward to? Perhaps you’ll see it here soon when…A Homebrew Draws Near! Command?
  22. Episode 5 will discuss Space Raft for the NES. Get the game here: https://raftronaut.itch.io/space-raft-nes Grab a CIB copy or play the game for free in your browser here: https://dustymedical.com/space-raft-nes/ For more discussion, join our Discord server: https://discord.gg/MsaGY87kex This episode is expected to post in late April, 2022.
  23. GET THE PODCAST HERE: HBGC Extra: Retro-Inspired Indie Games Nick has a story about losing his car keys. It's long, sorry. Eventually, Nick and Conor talk about some of their favorite retro-inspired indie games. Let us know which ones we missed by yelling at us on social media or emailing homebrewgameclub@gmail.com. Our next game is Witch n' Wiz for the NES. Get it here: https://mhughson.itch.io/witch-n-wiz Games mentioned in this episode: Streets of Rage 4 Fight'n Rage River City Girls Cave Story VVVVVV Super Hexagon Celeste Bionic Commando Rearmed Undertale GG Aleste 3 (Aleste Collection) Super Meat Boy Binding of Issac Shovel Knight Hollow Knight Sega Ages (Series) Limbo Braid Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 1 & 2 Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero Shantae and the Pirate's Curse Super Hydorah
  24. Download (or play in your browser) the latest build here! (ver. 1.0) The Kraken cometh... From the deepest trenches of the ocean, the Kraken has come to lay waste to your city! The archers have slung every arrow. The burning tar has run dry. Every piece of military weaponry has been dispatch. And yet... the Kraken moves forward, climbing the towering walls of your seaside fortress. With no ammunition left, the city itself moves from a barricade, to a weapon! The stones of the walls are broken off, and hurdled down at hideous creature. And it just might be enough to slow it down till morning, when surely help will arrive... --- Hi! I created my first Homebrew NES game, FROM BELOW! It a falling block puzzle game featuring: Soft Drops Hard Drops Wall Kicks T-Spins Lock Delay 3 modes of play: Kraken Battle Mode The signature mode of FROM BELOW. Battle the Kraken by clear lines across the onslaught of attacking Kraken Tentacles. The Tentacles push more blocks onto the screen every few seconds, forcing to act quickly, and strategize on an every changing board. Classic Mode The classic block falling mechanics you know and love without any new gimmicks. Modernize for 2020, with Hard Drops, Lock Delay, and more, making this (hopefully) the best feeling puzzle game on the NES! Turn Based Kraken Battle Mode Similar to "Kraken Battle Mode", but instead of the Kraken attacking every few seconds, it advances its tentacle every time you drop a piece. Make every move count, as this move favors slow, deliberate play!
  25. Homebrew hidden gems! Maybe you overlooked these games or never knew about them, well worry no more...we have you covered. Join @neodolphino, @Scrobins, and @Deadeyeas we cover 9+ NES homebrews that deserve more attention and play time. Audio Podcast version: https://anchor.fm/deadeye-bit/episodes/HiF-011---Hidden-Gems-e1fpumq Video version:
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